Congress Approves Medicare Payment Patch Through May 31

Legislation Provides More Time to Pass Longer-term Measure

April 15, 2010 09:20 pm News Staff

Congress has passed and President Obama has signed a Medicare physician payment bill that extends the 2009 physician payment rate through May 31, thus reinstating the payment rate that was in place on March 31. This will allow CMS to rescind a 21.2 percent reduction that went into effect on April 1 because of the sustainable growth rate, or SGR, formula.

CMS held payment of claims from April 1-15, awaiting passage of the payment legislation. The Senate, however, was unable to pass the Medicare payment bill before the 21.2 percent cut started to take effect.

"The measure faced opposition because there were insufficient budget offsets," said Kevin Burke, director of the AAFP Division of Government Relations. "However, Congress has given itself time to work the differences in a separate bill that will take the SGR to Oct. 1. We're hoping the disruption to family physicians will be as small as possible."

Lawmakers soon will take up legislation to extend the current payment rate until Oct. 1. Both the House and Senate have passed separate bills to accomplish this extension and negotiations about how to pay for it are ongoing.

The House approved a Medicare extension bill on March 17 that would have extended the Medicare payment rate through the end of April. But the Senate failed to pass the legislation before adjourning for a two-week recess on March 26, permitting the 21 percent pay cut to take effect on April 1.