HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Major Cut in Medicare Payments For Physicians Starts Monday

A 21% cut in Medicare payments to physicians is scheduled to start on Monday. While the House has voted to postpone these cuts, the Senate may delay any action. The WSJ Health Blog reports that

[i]n response, the AMA is telling its members what they can do about the lower payments, including closing their doors to new Medicare patients, CNN reports. “To our physicians, we are providing information on their Medicare participation options, including how to remove themselves from the Medicare program,” AMA President James Rohack told the cable channel.

There’s nothing new about these cuts — they have been scheduled to go into effect regularly since 2003. Congress has blinked with a temporary reprieve each time in the past, but hasn’t done so yet this time with the cuts slated to begin Monday. Here’s why:

The House yesterday adopted a one-month delay in the cuts as part of a $10 billion employment bill with various other health provisions. “The legislation, which the Senate may take up next week, would give lawmakers more time to debate the fee cuts,” Bloomberg reported today.

But there could be a big hangup in getting that bill through the Senate in a hurry because Republican Sen. Jim Bunning of Kentucky wants to delay any swift action. That runs counter to what Senate leaders on both sides of the aisle had in mind, but senators can do that. Here’s how Politico describes the messy situation.

The AMA wants a permanent fix to banish the planned cuts in Medicare fees that they think are too low to begin with. There was an effort to include a long-term fix as part of the health overhaul, but we all know that hasn’t happen, at least not yet. So a temporary patch became part of the employment bill, but that hasn’t happened yet, either.

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