House Expected To Pass One-Month Extension To Avoid Medicare Pay Cut
On Monday, the House is expected to approve legislation (HR 5712) that will delay for one month a scheduled 23% cut to Medicare physician payment rates, CQ Today reports (Ethridge, CQ Today, 11/25).
The Senate on Nov. 18 unanimously approved the legislation. The measure includes a 2.2% payment increase to physicians and costs $1 billion. The deferral is to be fully offset through Medicare reimbursement cuts for certain outpatient therapy services (California Healthline, 11/19).
Bill Would Give Lawmakers Time To Consider Long-Term Fix, but Problems Exist
The bill would give lawmakers time to work out a long-term solution. However, several issues are impeding progress on an extended "doc fix," according to CQ Today.
First, Congress will be in session for only a few weeks before the one-month extension ends on Jan. 1, 2011. Second, the cost of a longer-term fix might be prohibitive. CQ Today reports that the estimated total cost of a 12-month doc fix would be $19 billion.
In the Senate, Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said in a statement that they "are working together to secure a mutually agreeable way to pay for the yearlong cost of the physician formula."
To pay for the deferral, Baucus has suggested including the yearlong doc fix in a larger tax package to address expiring 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. According to CQ Today, that plan likely will be discussed with President Obama on Tuesday.
The "patch" is supported by physician groups that have pressured Congress to seek long-term certainty in reimbursement rates. Doctors have threatened to stop taking new Medicare patients if the cuts are passed, which experts have said could undermine the program (CQ Today, 11/25).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.