The United States Senate and House of Representatives passed legislation that delays for six months the implementation of a proposed 10 percent cut to physician payments for Medicare services. Instead, Medicare payments to physicians will increase by 0.5 percent for six months. The modest increase takes effect January 1, 2008.

The legislation also authorizes an additional 1.5 percent bonus for Medicare physician quality reporting initiative (PQRI) activities through December 21, 2008; extends the floor for work geographic adjustment and physician scarcity bonus through June 30, 2008; and renews funding for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) through March 2009.

However, several key policies that directly affect sleep medicine specialists were omitted from the Medicare bill passed by the Senate. Among the major topics the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) and American Medical Association (AMA) identified as not included in the legislation are:

  • Limitations on physician-owned hospitals
  • Provisions to alter or supplant the role of the Relative Value Update committee and provide Medicare with the authority to make arbitrary cuts in rapidly-growing services
  • Creation of specialty-specific expenditure targets
  • Electronic prescribing requirements or reductions in payments for paper scripts
  • Change in direction of QIO program to focus on enforcement and change in QIO boards
  • Imagining provisions to reduce payments, mandate accreditation or establish appropriateness demonstration projects.
The AASM will continue to monitor Congressional activity related to Medicare payments and continue to address this situation. More information will be communicated on the AASM Web site.