Monday, March 1, 2010

Bunning's Filibuster Creates 20% Cut in Medicare

Remember when I mentioned Jim Bunning's filibuster against unemployment and health aid for over a million people- and how Republicans are moving towards supporting him?

Well, he's still blocking the same resolutions... and it turns out it's had a vastly more important effect- a 21% cut to Medicare payments to doctors.

The American Medical Association warned of this last week: "A Medicare meltdown now seems certain, as the U.S. Senate has left early for the weekend, abandoning seniors, military families and baby boomers," reads an AMA statement from Friday. "The Senate failed to repeal the Medicare physician payment formula that will cause a drastic 21 percent payment cut to physicians who care for Medicare and TRICARE patients. On Monday, the 21 percent cut goes into effect, forcing many physicians to limit the number of Medicare and TRICARE patients they see in order to keep their practice doors open."

On a conference call with reporters this afternoon Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) put it this way: "By his actions, Bunning has prevented people from receiving Unemployment, health care access, transportation projects from going forward, and Doctors who provide Medicare services from getting paid."

Bunning, of course, claims he's only filibustering because the measure isn't paid for. Democrats have pointed out- quite accurately- that Bunning never worried about paying for Bush's tax cuts, or the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or Medicare Part D. The former star pitcher apparently only cares about budget deficits if he can blame them on the other party.

And, of course, the true chutzpah of all this is: Republicans oppose the Senate version of health insurance reform because it would cut $500 billion of wasted and unnecessary medical practices ordered by overcautions or profit-seeking doctors and hospitals. Yet they are apparently quite prepared to let the "doc-fix" falter, and to filibuster the upcoming jobs bill that makes permanent the thirty-day unanimous-consent measure Bunning is doing his damndest to kill.

Of course, the Republicans also want to convert Medicare from a government-run insurance company to a voucher plan which gives seniors fixed amounts of money to buy corporate insurance with... if they can.

If the Democrats lose both the House and Senate in November, with the Republicans pulling shenanigans like this, they will have proven themselves useless not only as government officials but as an entire political movement.

But I'm predicting exactly that outcome... because these are the Democrats.

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