Tuesday, January 18, 2005
The New York Times reports today that the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission has voted to recommend a cut in Medicare payments promised to hospitals and a freeze in payments to nursing homes and home care agencies in 2006. The Commission also recommended a 2.7 percent increase in Medicare payments to doctors.
According to the Times, the Commission has a great deal of influence with Congress and the Bush administration is likely to welcome its recommendations at a time when it is making domestic spending cuts a priority. The hospital community has criticized the report, claiming that it will be used to cut the budget rather than as a way to consider the efficient delivery of health care services.
The Commission also expressed some concern about doctors providing diagnostic imaging services such as x-rays, CAT scans, PET scans, magnetic resonance imaging, ultrasound, echocardiography and other imaging. Due to what the Commission members felt was poor quality testing, it recommended that the Secretary of Health and Human Service develop new standards for doctors billing Medicare for such services. Such standard-setting would be a first for Medicare and may cause some irritation among physicians. [bm]