By Kate Madden Yee, staff writer

January 1, 2013 -- As part of legislation that would raise tax rates on the wealthy, the U.S. Senate voted to delay for one year the implementation of the Medicare physician payment formula, averting a 27% cut in physician payments that was scheduled to begin January 1.

The cut is required under the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula, which links Medicare reimbursement rates to increases in the country's gross domestic product. The SGR has mandated cuts every year since 2002, but each year Congress has passed legislation delaying its implementation.

In the early hours of New Year's Day, the Senate voted 89-8 to pass HR 8, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012. Although the Senate legislation would again avert a cut to the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule, the $30 billion cost of the delay would be covered by cutting other healthcare programs, according to a story by the Washington Post.

The Senate's bill also sets the equipment utilization rate at 90% in 2014.

The legislation has now moved to the U.S. House of Representatives, which is expected to convene today to take up the bill, according to the Post.

The delay is yet another patch, said Tom Greeson, a partner at law firm Reed Smith of Falls Church, VA, who specializes in radiology-related regulatory matters.

"Congress and the administration won't leave doctors in the lurch," Greeson told "They want physicians to remain as participating providers in the Medicare program."

Copyright © 2013

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