2012 Medicare Physician Payment Rates in Limbo as Congress Fails to Act
Friday, February 3, 2012
The Medicare physician payment is set to be cut by 27.4 percent on January 1, 2012, unless Congress passes legislation to prevent the cut from taking effect. The physician payment "fix" has been included in the 'payroll tax bill', which aims to extend payroll tax cuts, unemployment benefits as well as avert the physician payment cut.
Although the House of Representatives passed a bill which would provide a 1 percent per year update to physician payments for two years; due to policy differences unrelated to physician payment; the Senate did not accept the legislation and passed a 2 month short term fix to allow time for negotiations to reach a one-year deal on the payroll tax bill. On December 20, the House rejected Senate's bill and passed a resolution to form a conference committee to work out the differences between the House and Senate versions.
The House is currently scheduled to return to Washington on January 17, while the Senate is scheduled to return on January 23. It is unclear whether any further action will take place to resolve the situation before January 1st, 2012.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced that it would hold claims for 2012 physician services for 10 business days, until January 17, to avoid processing payments at the lower rate. After that date, claims will be processed on a first in, first paid basis at the reduced rates until the situation is resolved.