President Obama is expected to sign into law legislation that would grant physicians a reprieve from drastic cuts in their Medicare payments beginning on Jan. 1. The new law, adopted by the Congress last week, provides a 0.5 percent update to Medicare payments for the first three months of 2014 and avoids a 24 percent cut otherwise required under current law.
That action gives Congress three more months to complete its work on legislation that would repeal the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) without further disruption to the Medicare program. Both the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee (amending a bill produced by the House Energy and Commerce Committee) have overwhelmingly approved similar but not identical bills – the SGR Repeal and Medicare Beneficiary Access Act (S 1871) and the Medicare Patient Access and Quality Improvement Act (HR 2810). The three-month extension of the Medicare physician fee schedule (with a 0.5-percent increase) means that the two committees have until March 31 to work out the differences in the bills.
In the meantime, physicians must make decisions about their Medicare participation status for 2014. Physicians wishing to change their Medicare participation or non-participation status for 2014 are required to do so by Jan. 31, 2014. Participation decisions are effective Jan. 1, 2014, even if made between then and Jan. 31, 2014, and are binding for the entire year. More information on physicians’ Medicare participation options is available on the AAFP web site.
– Kent Moore, Senior Strategist for Physician Payment for the American Academy of Family Physicians
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