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Doctors get two month delay on Medicare cuts

Jenny Decker RN's picture

The American Medical Association is applauding the early vote from the House of Representatives on the upcoming Medicare cuts. Doctors will now get a two month delay on Medicare cuts, which were expected to be 21 percent. The cuts were expected to go into effect on January 1st. Instead, Congress has some breathing room to work with on the new formula that will replace the SGR formula.

The AMA President J. James Rohack, MD, told TopNews, “The AMA acknowledges today’s votes in the House to temporarily suspend for two months the 21 percent Medicare payment cut that has three weeks to go, as this will allow physicians to continue to care for Medicare patients.” The two month delay will allow both physicians and Congress to come up with ideas to fix the flawed SGR formula for physician reimbursement for Medicare patients.

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As an effort to prevent Medicare payments from getting too large too fast, the SGR was put into effect in 1997, writes MedPage Today. This formula, the sustainable growth rate, indexes the reimbursements to the changes in the gross domestic product (GDP). However, spending in health care has grown much faster than the GDP and this has resulted in cuts to the Medicare reimbursement for physicians year after year.

Each year, physician groups have pleaded with Congress to override the formula. This has been successful, but it has resulted in billions of dollars of debt. In November, the House did pass a bill that would basically repeal the flawed SGR formula to replace it with another formula. The two month delay on Medicare cuts to physician reimbursement give Congress a little more time to work out the details of a new formula.

The new formula proposes an annual payment increase of 1 percent more than the growth in the GDP with 2 percent more for primary care and preventive care physicians, writes TrueSlant. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians pushed Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, to follow a highly considerable Medicare physician payment reform.

A nice Christmas present for doctors and more time for Congress to work on Medicare payment reform is also a benefit to Medicare patients. The House has until March 1, 2010 before the cuts will then be in effect unless a new formula is put in place.