Reid buying off doctors to support ObamaCare?

Harry Reid has launched a new effort to woo doctors into supporting ObamaCare, The Hill reports this morning.  That may surprise some who watched the White House hold a Rose Garden event with scores of lab-coat-clad physicians that claimed the medical profession was foursquare in support of Barack Obama’s overhaul of the American medical industry.  Most other physicians object to the cuts in Medicare reimbursements that pay for the conversion, so Reid will dump the cuts to buy their endorsement:

The White House and Democratic leaders are offering doctors a deal: They’ll freeze cuts in Medicare payments to doctors in exchange for doctors’ support of healthcare reform.

At a meeting on Capitol Hill last week with nearly a dozen doctors groups, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said the Senate would take up separate legislation to halt scheduled Medicare cuts in doctor payments over the next 10 years. In return, Reid made it clear that he expected their support for the broader healthcare bill, according to four sources in the meeting. …

Reid also asked that doctors ease up on demands for medical malpractice reform during the upcoming healthcare debate. Democrats have traditionally resisted calls for tort reform, which trial attorneys — a reliable base group — staunchly oppose.

But the primary focus of the meeting was on Democratic plans to bring to the Senate floor a standalone bill costing nearly $250 billion that would freeze cuts in doctors’ payments mandated by a 1997 law. Without the freeze, doctors would see their Medicare payments drop by 21 percent next year and by 40 percent by 2016. The bill’s costs are not offset by tax increases or spending cuts at a time when the Obama administration estimates the federal deficit at $1.4 trillion.

As I wrote last week, the Stabenow bill would essentially turn ObamaCare into a deficit hammer.  The Baucus bill, which totals over 1500 pages, uses the cuts in Medicare reimbursements as a baseline to get its CBO scoring of deficit neutrality.  Reid deliberately hid these payment changes — which, to be fair, are entirely necessary to keep doctors in the Medicare business — to keep the CBO from delivering a damning verdict on the Senate’s version of reform.

It wasn’t too hard to figure out why, either.  Despite that little PR stunt in the Rose Garden, doctors mostly oppose ObamaCare, and for very good reasons.  More and more of them avoid Medicare patients, as the reimbursement rates are ridiculously low.  In order to actually get physicians to support the reform, the Democrats had to sweeten the pot.  Reid and the Senate did that in an underhanded, dishonest fashion.

What’s more, they ignored a real, valid method to actually reduce costs: tort reform.  That would save the government alone $54 billion over the next ten years, and the industry as a whole as much as $135 billion, according to the CBO.  Unfortunately, Reid needs his trial lawyers more than he needs the doctors, so he has casually dismissed a real reform to the system that would rein in abuse and overuse of the system.

This is a microcosm of the entire health-care reform effort from Democrats — dishonest shell games.  Let’s hope doctors are a little too smart to fall for this one.

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