As you will recall, in our last installment (see "The perils of the 2010 Medicare physician fee schedule," Jan. 13, 2010), the 2010 Medicare physician fee schedule was headed down the tracks towards a "Bridge Out!!" sign after Feb. 28. That is still the situation as I write this post, but two developments in the interim have made the ride a little more interesting.
First, on Jan. 19, voters in Massachusetts elected a Republican to fill the seat of the late Senator Edward Kennedy. That has, apparently, effectively put health care reform on hold, which has implications for the fee schedule, since the postponement of the cut in the 2010 Medicare physician fee schedule was intended to give Congress time to implement a long-term fix as part of health care reform. According to folks inside the Beltway, there is still a lot of work going on with respect to the physician payment formula, but one has to wonder what impact last week's election results will have in this regard.
The other development of interest is that the Medicare conversion factor is actually higher now than it was in 2009. According to MLN Matters article MM6796, published by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the conversion factor for 2010 is currently $36.0846. In 2009, it was $36.0666. Apparently, the increase was due to some technical corrections in some of the relative value units (RVUs) in the fee schedule. Admittedly, two cents per RVU is not much to get excited about, but it's an interesting development nonetheless.
So, the wild ride continues with only a month to go before calamity may strike. What twists and turns may appear between now and then? Stay tuned!
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