Last Friday the Senate passed a stand-alone measure (HR 3962) that would postpone for six months the 21-percent cut to physicians’ Medicare reimbursements and provide a 2.2-percent payment increase to the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (MPFS) payment rates retroactive from June 1 through Nov. 30, 2010. Last night the House of Representatives voted unanimously to pass the bill, the Los Angeles Times reports. Friday President Obama signed into law the “Preservation of Access to Care for Medicare Beneficiaries and Pension Relief Act of 2010.”

The legislation does not address the potential for massive reimbursement cuts in the future as a result of the application of the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula. Even the president noted this problem in a statement about the legislation.

“I’m pleased that Congress has acted to ensure the security of our seniors’ health care,” the president said. “We should also agree, as I’ve said in the past, that kicking these cuts down the road just isn’t an adequate solution to the problem. I believe we need to permanently reform the Medicare formula in a way that attacks our fiscal problems without punishing our hard-working doctors or endangering the benefits on which so many of our seniors rely. I look forward to working with Congress to achieve that goal, and I’m gratified that in the meantime they’ve taken the provisional step of blocking this pay cut.”

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has directed Medicare claims administration contractors to discontinue processing claims at the negative update rates and to temporarily hold all claims for services rendered June 1, 2010, and later, until the new 2.2-percent update rates are tested and loaded into the Medicare contractors’ claims processing systems. Effective testing of the new 2.2-percent update will ensure that claims are correctly paid at the new rates. CMS expects to begin processing claims at the new rates no later than July 1, 2010. Claims for services rendered prior to June 1, 2010, will continue to be processed and paid as usual. Claims containing June 2010 dates of service that have been paid at the negative update rates will be reprocessed as soon as possible.