Senate delays Medicare cuts until December

By staff writers

June 18, 2010 -- The Senate has passed legislation that will stave off the 21% sustainable growth rate (SGR) cut to the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (MPFS) through November 30, 2010.

Not only has the cut been avoided once again, but with the passage of the legislation, physicians will actually enjoy a 2.2% increase in the fee schedule retroactive to June 1 and continuing through the November deadline.

The Senate's decision to implement a short-term fix instead of a long-term solution is indicative of where the U.S. stands in terms of debt, according to Cynthia Moran, assistant executive director for government relations at ACR.

"I don't think anyone, on either side, wants these cuts to go through," Moran told "There's no desire to penalize physicians. But right now the new god that's ruling the Hill is the deficit. By 2015, the debt is going to be bigger than it has ever been in the country's history. That's looming, and everything is being played against that."

The long-dreaded SGR cut technically went into effect June 1. But the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) directed its contractors to hold Medicare claims until June 17, giving Congress more time to pass another temporary delay. Proposals to delay the SGR cut have taken a number of forms over the past month, as Democratic senators tried to put it off, with some calling for a three-year postponement, others for a 19-month, and now this one for six months.

Of course the issue isn't permanently resolved. On December 1, the 2.2% increase will be rescinded and the 21.3% SGR cut will take effect if Congress doesn't broker a permanent fix. This would then be followed by another cut -- on top of the 21.3% cut -- in the MPFS conversion factor that is slated to take effect on January 1, 2011.

What will happen next depends on how the November elections turn out, Moran said.

"Undoubtedly there will be a lame duck Congress after the November elections, which will coincide with this new expiration date for SGR cut delay," she said. "So whatever happens next will be in the context of the November outcomes."

Senate committee takes SGR action, June 18, 2010

CMS extends Medicare claim hold, June 14, 2010

Another SGR deadline expected to expire, May 28, 2010

Congress tries again to pass longer-term SGR fix, May 20, 2010

ACR asks Senate for Medicare fix, April 22, 2010

Copyright © 2010


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