Congress fails to prevent April 1 cut in Medicare physician payments

Last night, the U.S. Senate held floor debate on a bill, H.R. 4851, that would extend a number of expiring programs through April. That bill, which had already passed the U.S. House of Representatives, includes a 30-day extension of current Medicare physician payment rates, postponing once again the 21.3 percent cut scheduled to take effect this year. It also addresses a number of other programs such as extensions of COBRA benefits and unemployment insurance benefits for Americans who have lost their jobs. In a replay of the standoff that occurred a month ago, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., objected to the bill’s consideration on the basis that it should not be considered emergency spending that would be exempt from budgetary offsets. As a result, Congress will adjourn for its two-week spring recess without taking action to stop these programs from expiring. We are told that the Senate plans to hold a cloture vote after the recess which, if supported by 60 senators, will allow a vote to occur on the legislation. That vote is scheduled for the evening of April 12. Congress failed to act yet again, and as a result, the 21.3 percent Medicare physician payment cut will take effect on April 1. The AMA has contacted the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and they will be making an announcement shortly about their plans for handling the situation. Judging from past experience, CMS will not be forced to process claims at the reduced payment rates for 10 business days.

Published by XIFIN

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