Can the government stick it to the docs?

Most of Bruce Bartlett’s first Economix post summarizes the state and future of Medicare and Social Security finances. I did not predict where he would end up, with an endorsement of the idea of no doc fix. None.

Medicare’s actuaries do not believe their own projections are realistic because they were required to assume that a key provision of current law will take effect as scheduled. […] It would require a 29.4 percent cut in fees for doctors who treat Medicare patients on Jan. 1, 2012. […]

[W]hat if President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner agreed, as part of negotiations on raising the debt limit, to let the this cut in Medicare fees take effect as current law requires? […]

The doctors will scream bloody murder and threaten to stop treating Medicare patients. It will be ugly. […]

I think if he and Mr. Obama jointly committed to not to implement another so-called “doc-fix” — the delay in cutting Medicare fees — it would be a solid first step on finding a bipartisan approach to dealing with the deficit.

Is this even thinkable? Bartlett just suggested it is, to which I can only say, “Wow!” or, maybe more appropriately, “Yikes!”

LATER: I should add that if Congress could stick to a no doc fix deal then we should not be skeptical of it sticking to anything. This is as politically challenging as it gets.

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