Hanys Health Care Association
New York State
Susan Van Meter
Last night, the U.S. Senate passed legislation to provide a one-month reprieve from the impending cut to Medicare payments under the physician fee schedule. Without congressional intervention, physicians would be subject to a 23% reduction, effective December 1, deepening to 30% on January 1, 2011. The cost of bringing doctors up to a positive 2% update for the month of December is approximately $1 billion.
The House of Representatives has left town for the Thanksgiving recess and will likely pass the Senate bill after reconvening November 29.
The Senate bill is paid for by changing the Medicare discount policy for multiple outpatient therapy services paid under the physician fee schedule. Beginning January 1, 2011, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) planned to establish a 25% discount on second and subsequent outpatient therapy services furnished for the same beneficiary on the same day. This administrative revision to the fee schedule would have been implemented in a budget-neutral manner, with the savings incorporated into physician payments for other services. The legislation reduces the 25% discount to 20% and eliminates budget neutrality, instead using the savings as an offset for the cost of the one month delay in the physician payment cut.
The Senate’s legislation provides only a short-term solution. The White House and other lawmakers are still backing a 13-month fix at a cost of $20 billion. Contact:
Wall Street Journal
DOCTORS FEES: A scheduled 26% cut in Medicare payments to doctors has repeatedly been postponed. Initially put into law to cut program costs, the provision has been blocked in response to pressure from doctors and amid concern that physicians would stop treating Medicare patients. The latest delay in the payment cut ends Nov. 30.