House Action Moves Congress Closer to Approving Payment Patch

21.2 Percent Payment Cut Still Looms at End of April

March 17, 2010 04:55 pm News Staff

The House has passed a bill that would provide another one-month extension of the current Medicare physician payment rate and avert a payment reduction scheduled to take effect under the sustainable growth rate, or SGR, formula on April 1.

The bill would extend the current Medicare payment rate through April 30 and give Congress more time to pass a longer-term payment patch, according to Kevin Burke, the AAFP's director of government relations. He added that the Senate is likely to pass the bill, as well, thus averting a scheduled 21.2 percent payment reduction in Medicare physician payments.

"I am fairly hopeful that Congress will approve this without too much controversy," said Burke. "They then will have a little more time to find the elusive longer-term solution to the SGR."

Congress passed a one-month extension of the Medicare physician payment rate in early March to reverse the 21.2 percent cut in the Medicare payment rate that went into effect on March 1. Although the Senate has passed a bill that would provide a payment fix until Oct. 1, the measure included offsetting reductions in spending and increases in taxes that are included in the larger health reform bill, said Burke. Congress cannot use the same offsets in both bills, so the House decided another one-month patch was necessary to give lawmakers more time to find new budget offsets to pay for provisions in the bill.