Short-term SGR Patch
While some details are still being finalized, it is being reported from Capitol Hill that conferees have reached agreement on extending the payroll tax holiday, unemployment insurance benefits, and current Medicare physician payment rates for the next 10 months, through the end of 2012.
In lieu of the 27.4 percent physician payment cut scheduled to take effect on March 1, a payment freeze will be effective through the end of the year. The cost of this short-term patch was reportedly offset through reductions in a number of health care programs, including Medicaid disproportionate share payments to hospitals, Medicare bad debt payments to hospitals, federal Medicaid payments to Louisiana, and the prevention fund created by the Affordable Care Act. Other expiring Medicare policies were also extended through the end of the year, including the “floor” on geographic adjustments to the physician work component of the Medicare fee schedule, the therapy cap exemption process, and ambulance add-on payments. Two policies—Section 508 hospital and special pathology payments—will be phased out, and mental health add-on payments and pay increases for bone density scans have been eliminated.
Assuming this agreement secures sufficient support, it could be voted on by both the House and Senate by the end of the week.
The PCMA, FMA and AMA express their deep disappointment over the short term extension. Both were hoping for a long term solution.
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