Payments to US physicians under theMedicare program will rise by 1.5%next year, according to the Centers forMedicare and Medicaid Services (a3.3% cut had been planned for 2005).About 85% of US doctors participate inMedicare. Effective January 1, 2005,doctors will also be able to collect morefor providing preventive services forseniors. Doctors will be able to bill andreceive payment separately for an electrocardiogram,for example, as well asbe reimbursed for the physical exam.Reimbursement for vaccinations willalso get bumped up. In the case of fluvaccine, payment will more than double,going from $8 to $18. Payments forother screening procedures, such asmammograms, are also going up anaverage of 40% to 60%. Although theincrease will be welcomed amongphysicians, there won't be any cheering.According to various compensationsurveys, for at least the past 5 years, theaverage primary care doctor has beensecuring annual salary increases thatfail to top inflation.