Tentative Medicare Payment Cut "Fix" a Disappointment

A tentative agreement has been reached by the House and Senate for a deal to prevent the 27.4% cuts in Medicare physician payments. However, organizations are calling the fix another “patch” for the problem.

Through cuts to other health care funding Senate and House members were able to agree to extend the current payment rates until the end of the year, at which point the issue will be brought up all over again. Congress is expected to vote on the deal later in the week.

A large portion of the money is coming from $2.5 billion in Medicaid funds that Louisiana was supposed to get, Kaiser Health News reported. Other money will come from payment cuts for lab services and Medicare “bad debt” payments when patients are unable to pay for their care.

The health community almost immediately let it be known that it does not approve of this so-called “fix.”

Peter W. Carmel, MD, president of the American Medical Association called the agreement “another patch — kicking the can, growing the problem and missing a clean opportunity to protect access to care for patients.”

MGMA-ACMPE President and Chief Executive Officer Susan L. Turney, MD, MS, FACP, FACMPE, accused Congress of choosing political expediency over helping patients.

“Group practices are telling us that this congressional decision exacerbates an already unhealthy environment that limits their ability to plan for the future and balance their practice’s fiscal health with their desire to continue to serve Medicare beneficiaries,” she said in a statement.

The American Academy of Family Physicians, American College of Physicians, American College of Surgeons and American Osteopathic Association issued a joint statement expressing their deep disappointment. They wrote that the agreement does not solve the Medicare physician payment crisis.

“After this latest 10-month extension expires, the next cut will be steeper — an estimated 32% cut on January 1, 2013,” the organizations wrote.

They, along with others in the health care community, had pointed out that Congress had the opportunity to use the unspent money from overseas military operations — which the Pentagon said will not be spent now — to eliminate the Sustainable Growth Rate for good.

“Real payment reform can’t advance as long as physicians and their patients are facing the instability created by more double-digit SGR cuts just 10 months from now,” according to the statement.