Congress Approves Changes To Medicare Benefits Payments; House GOP Divided Over Overhaul

On Wednesday, Congress voted to end the current payment system to doctors and avoided a possible 21 percent cut across the board on payments to doctors. President Barack Obama indicated he will sign the new bill into law. The payment system, as it was structured, had been a source of frustration for lawmakers for the past 10 years.

In the New York Times, Dr. Mark McClellan, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a former member of the George W. Bush administration, stated it is an important piece of legislation needed to correct the problem with payments to doctors.

“It’s very important legislation in that it aims to support better care and lower costs, but there are a whole lot of details that still need to be filled in.”

Under this latest legislation, Medicare Benefits payments will increase the amount paid to doctors by.5 percent over the next five years. Doctors also have the opportunity to earn an additional five percent bonus if they participate in newer payment models designed to coordinate care. The new system is designed to overhaul how doctors are paid in the future and will provide more certainty in how much they will be paid.

The new payment system is designed to make Medicare benefits more efficient for patients by allowing doctors to work in teams to coordinate patient care while improving the quality standard of care. Although this means better care for patients and a better standard of pay for doctors, incentives to participate in the new payment models could also affect the pay for healthcare providers. Some doctors are skeptical of the reforms and complain it could cause competition that would lead to sacrificing the quality of care patients receive.

The new reforms will also affect the premiums that some patient pay, raising the amount of their payments. For patients with an income over $85,000 a year, premiums could range from $147 to $336 in 2018 instead of the current $105. The end result of this legislation is that it gets rid of the yearly ritual of suspending sustainable growth for Medicare benefits, according to Motley Fool.

Another proposal currently up for debate and has had the House GOP divided is Medicare Benefits reform. The current proposal, recommended by Representative Paul Ryan, would turn the current Medicare system into a premium support system and allow patients to purchase private insurance. The goal of the reform is to bring spending under control. The GOP hopes to have a deal within the next few weeks, according to the Hill.

[Photo credit Medicare.gov]