House Republicans submitted a plan extending a $1,000 payroll tax break — set to expire at the end of 2011 — that includes a two-year “doc fix” to stave off scheduled cuts to Medicare physician reimbursement rates.
Since 2002, Congress annually 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, is scheduled to expire on January 1, 2012, at which point physicians face a nearly 30% payment rate cut.
The GOP plan includes a 1% increase for reimbursement rates over the next two years. The plan would pay for the $38 billion fix in part by limiting Medicare benefits for high-income beneficiaries. It also would offset the cost by redirecting funding from the federal health reform law that was intended for prevention and public health services.
Also, CMS could briefly delay the impending Medicare physician payment rate cut if Congress appears to be on pace to reach an agreement on a doc fix before January 1. CMS previously has held physician payments for a brief period while lawmakers finalized deals to delay rate cuts.