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If the health bill becomes law, what does it mean to docs?

What does the Senate health bill, which is poised to become law, mean for the docs?  Dr. Scott Gottlieb, an internist, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and former senior official at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, wrote in the Wall Street Journal:

“The plan’s most tangible efforts to restrain medical costs are through its controls on specialist physicians. Based on the government’s premise that they often make wasteful treatment decisions, the health-care legislation in Congress will subject doctors to a mix of financial penalties and regulations to constrain their use of the most costly clinical options. The penalties and regulations are aimed first and foremost at surgeons and the medical devices that they use, largely because that’s where the bulk of spending is.

It all starts with the sweeping power that the Senate bill gives to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The agency will be given the authority to unilaterally write new rules on when medical devices and drugs can be used, and how they should be priced. In particular, the Obama team wants to give the agency the power to decide when a cheaper medical option will suffice for a given problem and, in turn, when Medicare only has to pay for the least costly alternative.

Primary-care doctors who refer patients to specialists will face financial penalties under the plan. Doctors will see 5% of their Medicare pay cut when their “aggregated” use of resources is “at or above the 90th percentile of national utilization,” according to the chairman’s mark of Section 3003 of the bill. Doctors will feel financial pressure to limit referrals to costly specialists like surgeons, since these penalties will put the referring physician on the hook for the cost of the referral and perhaps any resulting procedures.”

Click the WSJ link above for the full article and look for an update by Dr. Gottlieb in the January issue of Physicians News Digest.

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