Congress will create its own problems if it keeps passing
short-term fixes every year instead of repairing the broken
Sustainable Growth Rate system, a Senate Republican aide
admits. Problems include uncertainty for doctors, but also
uncertainty for government actuaries (who found in 2004,
for example, that the previous year's one-time doctor-pay
fix forced them to raise beneficiaries' Part B premiums
by an unprecedented amount).
makes more sense for lawmakers to enact a new method of
setting annual physician updates that could produce predictable,
accurate payments. But that won't happen this year.
one thing, there's not enough time, the Senate Republican
aide says. Because Congress will attempt to cut the federal
budget deficit in 2005, any substantive Medicare payment
legislation should get committee approval by June. The physician-fee
issue is far too contentious and unclear to meet that timetable,
said the staffer. "I don't presume [that at this point]
there is any consensus about what the solution is."