CMS Withdraws Proposal To Increase Physician Reimbursements in Sonoma, Santa Cruz Counties
CMS on Wednesday withdrew a proposal to increase Medicare reimbursements to doctors in Sonoma and Santa Cruz counties, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports. CMS earlier this year proposed increasing reimbursement rates to doctors in Santa Cruz County by 10% and Sonoma County by 8% by designating the counties as "special" areas that are rural but have a high cost of living.
The Sonoma County Medical Association estimates that the county loses $38 million annually because it remains in the rural category. In addition, 60% of doctors in Sonoma County do not accept new Medicare beneficiaries because of reimbursement rates, according to the Press Democrat.
Bob Ulikowski, a health insurance specialist at Medicare's San Francisco office, said the proposal was withdrawn because it "wasn't advanced or favorably commented on" by the California Medical Association. He added that CMS will not change reimbursement rates in rural areas without the support of the state medical association.
CMA Director of Federal Issues Elizabeth McNeil said the association did not endorse the proposal because it would have reduced payments to doctors in 47 other counties by 0.04%. McNeil said CMA supports the creation of legislation that would increase rates in 10 formerly rural counties, including Sonoma County, and provide $48 million to pay for the increase.
Reps. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), a member of a health subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee, and Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) said they would look into the matter and consider options for increasing Medicare reimbursements in Sonoma County, the Press Democrat reports (Benfell, Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 11/4).