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Doctors breathe a sigh of relief

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All settled—until November.

What looked like an impasse in Congress over the latest delay to physician fee cuts dissipated last week as the House of Representatives approved a six-month respite to the cuts.

The delay also gives doctors a 2.2-percent increase, on average, for the next six months.

But with Medicare, the largest chunk of revenue for many doctors, they’ll nervously wait to see what happens at the end of November.

If Congress had not acted, physicians would have sustained a 21.3-percent reduction to the payments they receive from Medicare, the government-run health benefits plan for seniors.

Some Indiana doctors said last week they would stop accepting Medicare patients right away if the cuts were not halted.

The cut was supposed to go into effect on June 1, but the agency that administers Medicare had not processed claims as it waited for Congress to act. The agency gave up waiting on June 21, the same day the Senate passed a new six-month delay.

But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi looked like she might not advance the bill through the House because she wanted to pair it with other relief for jobless workers. After a week of feuding, the House passed the Senate’s extension on Thursday night by a vote of 417-1.

The Medicare agency will now reprocess the bills it had paid at the reduced rates to give doctors more money for their services.

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  • Medicare payment problem still an issue
    Congress delayed the Medicare physician payment cut for six months, but the Medicare payment problem still exists, and a 23 percent cut looms for December. The six month fix doesnâ??t solve the Medicare mess Congress has created with a long series of short-term Medicare patches over the last decade â?? including four to avert the 2010 cut alone. Already, one in four Medicare patients looking for a new primary care physician are having trouble finding one. About one in five physicians are already limiting the number of Medicare patients they treat because of the instability and uncertainty of Medicare payment.
    The baby boomers begin entering Medicare in six months, and if the physician payment problem isnâ??t fixed, these new Medicare patients wonâ??t be able to find a doctor to treat them either. Congress must replace the broken Medicare system to preserve health care for seniors and baby boomers.

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  1. Why should citizens rates increase forever to basically reduce Dukes cost to operate in the future? They will have no meter readers, no connect/disconnect personnel and will need fewer lineman to handle the same number of customers. Add to that the ability to replace customer service by giving detailed information electronically. Why do we have to subsidize the cost cutting measures of a Public Utility?

  2. In response to Sassafras, I have to ask if you relocated directly from Bloomington to Carmel? First, as you point out, Carmel is 48 square miles. Do you think it’s possible that some areas are more densely developed than others? That might explain traffic density in some places while others are pretty free moving. Second, your comment “have you ever been to Chicago--or just about any city outside of Indiana?” belies your bias. I don’t know, Sassafras, have you never been to Nashville, Columbus, OH, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Kansas City, Denver, Phoenix? They’re not a lot different in density than Indy. One more thing…I understand these comment sections are for expressing opinions, so those of us just looking for facts have to be patient, but you mention “low-density” Indy. How many cities in the US comprise 400 square miles with about 10% of that still being agricultural? Those facts certainly can impact the statistics.

  3. With all the past shady actions of Duke with utility regulators, one wonders do they really need such a huge amount? Concerned regulators not protecting ratepayers from the aggressive Duke monolith.

  4. I thought that had to be the way it was but had to ask because I wasn't sure. Thanks Again!

  5. I could be wrong, but I don't think Butler views the new dorm as mere replacements for Schwitzer and or Ross.

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