Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Physicians Win Another Medicare Fee Cut Reprieve

The House and Senate last week passed yet another postponement of the huge looming cuts in the fees physicians receive for treating Medicare beneficiaries. If the lawmakers hadn't agreed to this delay, fees would have been slashed by about 27 percent on March 1. The new target date for implementing the fee cuts is January 1, 2013, assuming that President Obama, as expected, signs the legislation.

This is, however, one of those silver linings with a dark cloud around it, because each time the cut is put off—and Congress has done so annually for more than a dozen years—the size of the cut increases. Unless there is another postponement, January's average cut jumps to 32 percent. The physician fee adjustments, which usually involve cuts, are mandated by the complex formula known as the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) in which increases in the costs in one or more parts of the Medicare program must be offset by cuts elsewhere in its budget. APA and the AMA have for years urged Congress to throw out the SGR and develop a new, fairer system for setting Medicare reimbursements, but with such a daunting task, lawmakers have found it easier to just vote another postponement.

Read more about the SGR and physician Medicare fees in Psychiatric News here and here.

(image: ttueni/shutterstock.com)


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