Medicare pay cut hangs in balance for physicians

Apr 01, 2010

Physicians who see patients thought they were getting another 30-day reprieve in a planned 21.2% pay cut. Instead, as of March 1, the cut will take effect.

Washington, DC-Physicians who see Medicare patients thought they were getting another 30-day reprieve in a planned 21.2% pay cut as legislators seek more time to find a permanent resolution to the pay conundrum.

Instead, as on March 1, the cut will take effect, but the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has announced it will hold all claims for 14 days until legislators return from their 2-week spring break.

The House of Representatives voted March 17 to extend, until April 30, Medicare physician payment rates and a raft of unemployment benefits, poverty guidelines, and insurance programs that were set to expire March 31.

"The first vote when they return to Washington may not take place until April 13, which is cutting it close," Cohen said. "This instability and disruption to physicians' cash flow is one of the reasons we must have a permanent fix now."

Originally set for Jan. 1, the across-the-board pay cut, mandated by the controversial Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula adopted in the Balanced Budget act of 1997, was postponed Dec. 18, 2009, until Feb. 28 to allow time for Congress to solve the pay formula dilemma permanently.

However, with the health-care reform debate taking priority, action on Medicare payment for physicians continues to be pushed to a back burner. Some legislators have tried to include the payment issue in the overall health-care reform debate, while others say it belongs in a separate bill.

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