Congress passes fee fix, avoids 27% physician pay cut

Physicians are safe from the impending 27.4% cut to their Medicare payments set to hit March 1 thanks to Congress passing a temporary ‘doc fix’ Friday through the end of 2012.

The vote to extend the payroll tax holiday bill and keep the current $34.0376 conversion rate through Dec. 31 comes on the heels of intense debate among Congress members as to whether preventing the pay cut was fiscally sound.  The $150 billion bill failed to include deeper cuts requested by GOP Congress members but remained largely budget neutral.

Congress originally approved a two-month fix that was set to expire Feb. 29. Once signed into law, the new fee fix will be good through Dec. 31.

Senate to debate new 6-month Medicare physician payment provision

 Last night, Senate Democratic leaders introduced a substitute amendment to the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act (H.R. 4213) that includes a provision calling for a 2.2 percent increase to Medicare physician payment for claims with dates of service of June 1 through Nov. 30, 2010.
The Senate was unable to bring the House-approved version of this legislation to the Senate floor for debate following a failed procedural vote yesterday. In late May, the House of Representatives passed legislation approving a 2.2 percent increase to Medicare physician payment rates for the remainder of 2010 and a 1 percent increase in 2011. In 2012, the payment levels would revert to current law, forcing physicians to confront an estimated 33 percent reduction.

The Senate may hold votes as early as today, however debate on this bill may continue late into the week before final votes are held. If the Senate approves the substitute amendment, the House of Representatives must still pass the underlying tax extenders bill before it becomes law. If the bill is signed into law, the pending Medicare physician payment cuts would then be scheduled to take effect on Dec. 1, 2010.