Doc Fix Digs Debt Deeper

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Yesterday at 3:00 p.m. ET, the Treasury Department updated its calculation of the U.S. National Debt to: $12,031,299,186,290.07. That $12 trillion record high comes just eight months after it hit $11 trillion and is only expected to rise faster considering the federal deficit for 2009 was over $1.4 trillion. And what is the leftist majority of Congress going to do tomorrow about these skyrocketing deficits? They are going to pile on the spending faster.

The issue at hand is the congressionally created formula for annually updating the payments doctors receive for treating Medicare patients. The centrally planned price fixing formula was designed to control health care costs by tying doctor payments to the overall growth rate of the economy. Problem is the realities of supply and demand in the health care sector have pushed doctor’s fees higher than the formula allows for. So instead of going back and fixing the formula (or heaven forbid introducing some market based reforms into Medicare), every year Congress passes short-term fixes rescinding the scheduled rate cuts.


Fixing the problem permanently has long been the top legislative priority for the American Medical Association, and in exchange for their endorsement of Obamacare, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) promised them she would do so. Problem is Pelosi and co. could not figure out how to game the Congressional Budget Office’s numbers to show that Obamacare was deficit neutral and pay for the so called “doc fix” at the same time. So they solved the problem by pretending the “doc fix” was not health care reform. But to keep the AMA happy they took the unusual step of combining the debate rules for Obamacare and the doc fix.

As a result, Congress is set to debate the bill tomorrow for just one hour, and no amendments will be allowed. In other words, even if conservative Democrats or Republicans wanted to propose an amendment that would pay for the doctor’s higher payments, they are prevented from doing so. According to the CBO, just the ten year cost of the legislation will be $210 billion, but the damage does not end there. Medicare is a never ending entitlement program, so the real pain caused by the left’s free spending will be felt for decades to come. According to the latest report from the Medicare Trustees, the 75-year cost of allowing doctor payments to match the percentage change in the medical economic index is $1.9 trillion in more debt.

Americans who are concerned about our nation’s exploding deficits under President Obama and the leftist majorities in Congress should keep the doc fix debacle in mind when considering Obamacare. The deficit neutrality of the House-passed Obamacare bill entirely depends on Congress’ ability to cut $500 billion from hospital Medicare payments over the next ten years. Does anyone believe those cuts will ever happen?


The Dean of Harvard Medical School writes in the Wall Street Journal: “The various bills do deal with access by expanding Medicaid and mandating subsidized insurance at substantial cost