The President signed legislation (HR 4302) which delays the scheduled 24 percent cut to Medicare physician reimbursement rates for 12 months. The short-term patch, which has an estimated cost of $21 billion, is the 17th patch passed by Congress. The three-month “doc fix” was set to expire on April 1. However, a compromise bill was reached between House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). The compromise contains a number of other health care provisions:
- Grant Medicare physicians a 0.5 percent fee increase through the end of 2014;
- Delay the deadline to implement the new ICD-10 diagnostic and procedure code sets by one year, to Oct. 1, 2015
- Provide higher Medicare payments to hospitals in rural areas and for ambulance services in such areas;
- Delay implementation of the two-midnight rule, by six months, to March 2015; and
- Implement $2 billion in payment reductions over 10 years to skilled nursing providers
A number physician groups, including the AMA, oppose another short-term patch and have repeatedly called on Congress to approve a long-term, permanent solution to the SGR problem.