Last week, the President signed a measure which provides a two-month extension that delays a 27% cut to physician Medicare reimbursement rates. The measure cleared the Democratic-controlled Senate and the Republican-controlled House of Representatives by unanimous consent, a procedural move allowing the measure to pass even though most members of Congress are home for the holiday recess.
Under the agreement, Medicare will continue paying doctors at current rates for two months. Each year since 2002, Congress has passed a series of short-term bills to block scheduled cuts to Medicare reimbursement rates. The most recent “doc fix” bill, enacted in December 2010, was scheduled to expire on January 1, 2012, at which point physicians faced a 27% payment rate cut.
Among other things, the measure also includes a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut and emergency federal unemployment benefits. Over the past few months, this issue has been fiercely debated in Congress. The AASM has actively followed this debate and encouraged members to speak out. The AASM sent multiple Special Updates to members about the status of the issue, with directions on how members can contact their Representative and a template letter to inform Representatives of the dire consequences if the cuts were enacted.
House and Senate members will resume negotiations on a year-long extension of the “doc fix”, payroll tax and unemployment benefits when Congress reconvenes in January. AASM plans to keep our members updated on this issue and will again provide information members can use when contacting their Congressperson.