Congressional leaders have until March 1 to reach consensus about how to
prevent a 27.4% cut to Medicare physician payments.
The payment cut had been scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, but in an
11th-hour maneuver before adjourning for holiday recess, the U.S. House of
Representatives and Senate passed a bill that delayed the cut for 2 months.
Physicians will continue to receive 2011 pay rates while lawmakers try
to agree on a long-term extension.
The House on Dec. 13 passed a bill that called for a 2-year delay of the
Medicare payment cut.
Four days later, the Senate passed a bipartisan compromise measure that
called for a 2-month extension of the payroll tax cut and current Medicare
physician payment rate. The House rejected the measure and voted to send the
bill to conference.
House Republican leadership changed course Dec. 23, agreeing to the
2-month extension and allowing more time for debate.
The bill passed by voice votes with no debate in both the House and
President Barack Obama immediately signed the bill into law. The measure
also extends the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits.
The physician payment cut results in part from the sustainable growth
rate (SGR), a key factor in annual Medicare payment updates.
Payments were scheduled to be reduced several times under the formula,
but Congress repeatedly has implemented what is known as the “doc
fix” to prevent that from happening.
Congress approved the last doc fix — a 13-month extension — in
The American Medical Association and various other medical societies
have called for the SGR to be amended or repealed.
Prior to congressional approval of the extension, the Centers for
Medicare and Medicaid Services directed providers and claims administration
contractors to delay filing claims for services paid under the 2012 Medicare
Physician Fee Schedule for the first 10 business days of January.