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.

MEDPAC Advises Congress on Medicare Cuts 2011

MedPAC is the nonpartisan government research service that provides Congress with policy suggestions to ensure Medicare funds are well spent and the program’s beneficiaries have adequate access to care. Although Congress does not always immediately accept or implement MedPAC’s recommendations, the commission’s annual reports offer healthcare providers a look at future changes in payment policy that are bound to be on the table at some point.

This year’s reports—released in March and June—are no different. They include a number of proposals that could affect payment for inpatient, outpatient, and physician services, and the June report contemplates changes to the Medicare benefit structure. Providers should understand how these proposals will affect them and develop strategies to mitigate their impact.

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