“DOC FIX” BILL SIGNED INTO LAW

The “doc fix” bill has been signed into law.  Although formally known as the Preservation of Access to Care for Medicare Beneficiaries and Pension Relief Act, the legislation is more commonly known as the “doc fix” bill because it holds off a scheduled drop in payments to doctors. The Act was passed by the Senate on June 18 and by the House on June 24.

The Act reverses a 21 percent payment cut for doctors in Medicare and TRICARE, updates the physician payment formula through November 30, 2010, and provides temporary, targeted funding relief for single employer and multiemployer pension plans that suffered losses in asset value as a result of the 2008 financial downturn.  The Act also includes an information sharing provision to help identify fraudulent Medicare providers.

© 2010 Parsonage Vandenack Williams LLC

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30 Day SGR Freeze Extension Passed in Senate

On March 2, 2010, the Senate passed a 30 day extension of the sustainable growth rate (“SGR”) freeze.  The bill will now go to the President for his signature.

The legislation extends the Medicare payment freeze through March 31, 2010, which will temporarily void the 21% reduction in Medicare reimbursements.   

This is only a temporary measure.  Congress will have to pass either another extension or a permanent fix, otherwise the 21% cut will occur on April 1, 2010. 

© 2010 Parsonage Vandenack Williams LLC

  For more information, contact info@pvwlaw.com

REDUCTION IN MEDICARE REIMBURSEMENTS TAKES EFFECT

On March 1, 2010, the 21 percent overall cut in Medicare reimbursements to physicians became effective.  However, it could still be averted by a month-long stay that the U.S. House passed on February 25, 2010; action is pending in the Senate.

In the meantime, more physician practices are considering not accepting new Medicare patients. Many other physicians are seeking employment at hospitals.  Others are focusing more on patients who pay out of pocket and ending relationships with insurers that cut rates.

If the Senate passes the temporary fix that is expected to put the 21 percent cut on hold, it would be the latest in a series of patches that have become a nearly annual custom in Congress since 2003.

Under the formula by which doctors are paid by Medicare, growth in total payments to physicians cannot exceed annual growth in the nation’s gross domestic product.  As the United States population ages, doctors are serving more patients and using more costly treatments and tests accompanied by advances in technology.  As a result, physicians are requesting reimbursements that exceed GDP growth, which has averaged about 3 percent. Medicare is required to ensure that total payments do not exceed budget.

Lobbyists for physicians, including the American Medical Association, have played the primary role in persuading Congress to keep the rate cuts from going into effect.

© 2010 Parsonage Vandenack Williams LLC

  For more information, contact info@pvwlaw.com