Medicare Physician Reimbursements Under Consideration
The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health has scheduled a hearing prior to the October congressional recess to consider proposals to reverse a reduction in Medicare physician reimbursements scheduled to take effect in 2007, CongressDaily reports (Lee, CongressDaily, 9/8). Medicare physician reimbursements, determined by a sustainable growth-rate formula, will decrease by 5.1% in 2007 without congressional action (California Healthline, 9/8).
Subcommittee Chair Nathan Deal (R-Ga.) has scheduled a hearing for the last week of September, "just days before lawmakers are to depart for the election," CongressDaily reports.
Committee staff members have drafted proposals to reverse the reduction in Medicare physician reimbursements, one of which would tie payments to programs that reward physicians who deliver high-quality care.
House Ways and Means Committee Chair Bill Thomas (R-Calif.), who will retire in January, on Thursday said that he also will consider proposals to reverse the reduction in Medicare physician reimbursements.
In addition, House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health Chair Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.) and Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) have circulated letters that call for a reversal of the reduction in Medicare physician reimbursements. "Despite the widespread support for the effort, time and money are working against a fix before Election Day," CongressDaily reports (CongressDaily, 9/8).
Members of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission and other Medicare experts on Friday discussed proposals to revise the SGR formula. Congress has ordered MedPAC to deliver a report by March 1, 2007, on proposals to limit Medicare costs (Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 9/8).
In related news, CMS last week announced a pilot program that will allow hospitals to offer financial incentives to physicians for improvement in quality of care, CQ HealthBeat reports. Under the three-year program, which will include no more than 72 hospitals, hospitals will receive standard reimbursements and will "pay doctors a portion of savings from joint efforts to improve care," CQ HealthBeat reports.
CMS said that hospitals can offer financial incentives to physicians with documented improvements in quality of care (CQ HealthBeat, 9/8).
Raleigh News & Observer: "Reimbursement rates shouldn't be allowed to fall below the doctor's cost, but that's evidently what's happening" under the reduction in Medicare physician payments scheduled to take effect in 2007, a News & Observer editorial states. "Retirees moving into North Carolina already run into problems finding a primary care doctor who will accept Medicare payment for services rendered," the editorial states, adding, "The administration shouldn't make the situation worse, especially without good reason" (Raleigh News & Observer, 9/10).
- William Plested, Wall Street Journal: "Physicians who serve Medicare patients are scheduled for payment cuts of nearly 40%" over the next nine years, "while during the same time the government predicts physician costs will increase by more than 20%," Plested, president of the American Medical Association, writes in a letter to the editor of the Journal. "In an absurd move, the government plans to cut almost $200 billion over the next nine years from physician care for seniors, just as baby boomers are aging into Medicare by the millions," Plested writes (Plested, Wall Street Journal, 9/10).