Last week the members of the Congressional Joint Select Super Committee struck out as expected, sending the stock market back down to levels lower than they were a decade ago (read more about the Super Committee in a previous blog post here).
Under the law that created the bipartisan 12-member panel, the failure of the Super Committee means the government will face an across-the-board $1.2 trillion cut to defense and non-defense spending in 2013. Medicare provider payments will be reduced by 2 percent in 2013 unless Congress finds substitute reductions.
After the finger pointing behaviors were satisfied, the Super Committee pointed out that no deal is better than a bad deal, which is true. Since the process of the automatic sequestration does not kick in until Jan. 1, 2013, it’s the current craziness on Capitol Hill leading up to the Nov. 2012 election that will ultimately predict where the economy is headed.
Unfortunately, Jan. 1, 2013 has a double whammy attached to it: sequestration if Congress does not come to a deficit reduction plan before then; and the Bush tax cuts automatically expire. Together, these dual automatic actions would reduce deficit development by over $4 trillion annually. Both of these politically charged issues are of concern to both parties -- but rigid differences in how they would address the issues could prevent Congress from acting on them.
Meanwhile, the fate of the looming cuts due to the SGR (or SGRrrr, the un-Sustainable Growth Rate Medicare physician payment formula expressed as a growl), which go into effect on Jan. 1, 2012, remains very tenuous. I predict that Congress will enact a 2-year delay in the next month to avoid having this issue return again on the politically charged Jan. 1, 2013 date; but Congress will also want to prevent disruptions in Medicare access to senior voters before the election. Still, nothing in this fractious environment is easily predictable.
One thing’s for certain, we need to work to make sure Congress focuses its immediate attention on preventing the SGRrrr cuts before the end of the year!
Join me, ACC President David R. Holmes, Jr., MD, FACC, Advocacy Steering Committee Chair Jerry Kennett, MD, FACC, and ACC Senior VP of Advocacy James Fasules, MD, FACC, for an All-Member Year-End Webinar sponsored by the PINNACLE Network. The webinar will provide valuable information on how the failure of the super committee will impact cardiology and will offer next steps to addressing the SGR crisis leading up to Jan. 1, 2012. The webinar takes place on Thursday, Dec. 1 from 7-8 p.m. EST. Click here to register.