Congress Approves Bill To Delay Reduction to Medicare Physician Pay
On Monday, Congress voted to postpone for one month a scheduled 23% cut to Medicare physician payment rates, Reuters reports (Ferraro, Reuters, 11/29).
The House-approved legislation (HR 5712) was passed by the Senate on Nov. 18 and includes a 2.2% payment increase to physicians that would be funded through a 20% reduction in payments for therapy services (Millman, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 11/29). The one-month delay would cost $1 billion over a decade, the AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
The bill would give lawmakers one month to consider long-term solutions after it is signed into law by the president. Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who crafted the one-month delay, have pledged to develop a 12-month postponement that would allow time to create a new payment system. Changing the current formula is expected to cost $300 billion over 10 years (Abrams, AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 11/29).
If Congress does not act on another postponement before Jan. 1, 2011, a 25% Medicare payment cut for physicians will take effect. According to Cecil Wilson, president of the American Medical Association, the payment cut could cause a "Medicare meltdown" for beneficiaries (Reuters, 11/29).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.