Congress delays Medicare physician pay cut by 1 month

December 2, 2010

Both houses of Congress have voted to delay for 1 month a 23% reimbursement cut for physicians who treat Medicare patients that was scheduled to take effect Dec. 1.

Both houses of Congress have voted to delay for 1 month a 23% reimbursement cut for physicians who treat Medicare patients that was scheduled to take effect Dec. 1.

The House of Representatives approved the Physician Payment and Therapy Relief Act of 2010 by voice vote on Nov. 29. The Senate had passed the bill unanimously on Nov. 18. President Obama signed the bill into law on Nov. 30.

American Medical Association President Cecil B. Wilson, MD, thanked Congress for enacting the patch before the Dec. 1 deadline. However, he called on Congress to act in early December to delay a 25% pay cut scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2011. The AMA and others are seeking another patch through 2011 so the next Congress will have time to adopt a permanent solution to Medicare's sustainable growth rate formula.

"It is crucial that Congress act well before the Jan. 1 deadline so there are no disruptions in care for seniors," Dr. Wilson said.

The 1-month patch is estimated to cost $1 billion and will be paid for using the Medicare savings from a new Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services policy that reduces payments for multiple therapy services provided to patients in a single day, according to the authors of the measure, Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-MT) and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA). It’s estimated that a patch through the end of 2011 would cost $17 billion, the AMA said.