Some healthcare groups, lawmakers slam proposal for new agency governing Medicare rates

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Two-month freeze for Medicare physician pay included in new spending bill
Two-month freeze for Medicare physician pay included in new spending bill
President Obama has proposed creating a new executive agency, the Independent Medicare Advisory Council, to set Medicare payment updates. So far, that idea is meeting strong resistance from the healthcare community, according to recent reports.

Several hospital and physician groups, including the American Hospital Association and the American College of Surgeons, as well as a handful of prominent legislators have begun criticizing the IMAC proposal in recent days, the Bureau of National Affairs reported. IMAC would replace the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC), a legislative body, which annually recommends Medicare payment rates to Congress. Noting that the IMAC proposal would add new layers of bureaucracy, the American Hospital Association argued that Medicare pay decisions should remain with Congress, BNA reported.

Some lawmakers are also vehemently opposed to the proposal. Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA), a leader in House healthcare reform efforts, called the proposal "stupid at best, unworkable, childish, idiotic." In its most recent proposal to Congress, MedPAC has suggested freezing the Medicare reimbursement rate for skilled nursing facilities at its current level, and slashing home healthcare services by 5.5%. If established, IMAC would have the authority to execute these decisions, though the president and Congress would have a limited amount of time to be able to override those decisions. (McKnight's, 7/17/09)