After a short-term reprieve from a 21-percent Medicare physician payment cut expired April 1, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) instructed its contractors to refrain from processing physician claims at the reduced rates for 10 working days. With the expiration of this hold on physician claims, some Medicare carriers will begin processing claims at the reduced rates (conversion factor = $28.3910). However, it is expected that legislation will soon pass to retroactively restore Medicare payment levels to where they were March 31, while also extending 2009 payment rates through May 31, 2010.

On Monday the Senate returned from its recess to again consider (HR 4851), the Continuing Extension Act of 2010, which would avoid the 21 percent Medicare physician payment cut by extending 2009 rates through the end of April. On Wednesday the Senate cleared a procedural hurdle and waived the budgetary point of order against an amendment that would further extend the reprieve against the Medicare payments through the end of May. Debate may continue through the weekend, and passage of any changes to the bill would require the measure to be approved again by the House.