Haven't we seen this movie before? It's late December (on the Congressional calendar) and physicians across this country are again focused on Washington, DC seeing how the "Doc Fix" chess game will play out. "Doc Fix" is the main stream media's buzz phrase for the Medicare SGR band-aid Kabuki theater that happens every other year in the halls of Congress.
Last night, Tuesday, December 13, 2011, the US House of Representatives, by a 234-193 margin, passed legislation including the "Doc Fix," extend the payroll tax cut, and speed the process for governement approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, (and prevent a federal government shutdown).
Now, the predictable political drama continues as the clock ticks down. The Senate and the President vow to reject this House bill. Meanwhile, millions of Americans, including physicians, are hanging on every word that comes out of Washington, because whatever happens, people's lives will be changed.
Without action from Congress, Medicare physician payment sees a 27.4 percent pay cut on January 1st. Now, some of you may not care, because you see physicians as "the 1%." But this Medicare payment is what is also used to compensate people that work in physician offices like nurses, secretaries, lab personnel, etc.
What will happen? C'mon, everyone knows what will happen here. Mark my words: The Senate will pass their version of the bill, and then Congressional leaders go into the back room called "Conference Committee" where things will be hashed out, and no one's fingerprints will be seen anywhere. Congressional accountability? That's an oxymoron.
My prediction (I know you'll tell me when I'm wrong. But what's your prediction? How will this play out?): The Republican debate is Thursday night. I think the Senate will pass an amemded bill on Friday or Saturday. The Sunday news show pundits will guess what will happen in Conference Committee. At the beginning of next week, the public's attention will shift to the upcoming holidays and they will care even less about politics.
Conference Committee will really get to business on Monday. And, the President will sign it into law - with the band aid Doc Fix and without the controversial stuff - on Wednesday next week, just in time to get on a plane to join his family in Hawaii for a 2 week Christmas vacation. And then in 2 years, the "Doc Fix" Drama Sequel will happen all over again - exactly the same way - Isn't groundhog day in February?