Congress Votes for 10-Month Reprieve from Scheduled Medicare Physician Payments

Published Friday, February 17, 2012

Medicare Physician Payments News

Today, February 17, both the House of Representatives and the Senate approved legislation to provide a ten-month reprieve from a 27 percent reduction in Medicare payments to physicians scheduled for March 1. That payment freeze will be effective through the end of this year.  President Obama has indicated that he will sign this legislation into law as soon as it reaches his desk.

The bipartisan agreement is part of a bill to extend the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits.  Under Medicare's sustainable growth rate formula (SGR), the huge Medicare payment cut was scheduled to go into effect on January 1.  However, that was averted by a last-minute extension in late December of current payment rates until March 1.

While AAGP is pleased that the 27 percent cut was averted, there is still a serious need to permanently replace the flawed Medicare physician payment formula and protect access to care for older adults.  Congress has, again, missed an opportunity to end this problem.  Postponing the cuts this year, without a permanent solution, does nothing but set the stage for a higher cut next year, while increasing the cost of a permanent solution by several billion dollars.  It is critical that Congress reform the broken Medicare payment formula.  Recognizing that physicians cannot afford to accept an unlimited number of Medicare patients into their practices while they are facing the possibility of ongoing payment reductions,  AAGP remains committed to continuing its work with other medical organizations and consumer organizations to reform the Medicare payment system on a permanent basis. There needs to be a permanent solution to this problem in order to preserve Medicare beneficiaries' access to care and provide for fair reimbursement for all practitioners under the Medicare system.