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Congress passes another short-term delay to Medicare physician pay cut under SGR formula
e-Reports, March 5, 2012
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Medicare physicians will not see a 27.4 percent cut to their pay right now, but few are celebrating. Most are disappointed that Congress chose to pass another short-term patch to the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula – this time for 10 months – rather than repeal it altogether.

President Obama promptly signed the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 into law, freezing your Medicare pay as of March 1. The agreement was part of a deal to extend a payroll tax cut and make changes in welfare and unemployment benefits.

leadership in washington
ISMA President Thomas Vidic, M.D.; ISMA Past President Vidya Kora, M.D.; ISMA Treasurer Deepak Azad, M.D.; and ISMA Past President Michael Hoover, M.D., (from left to right) went to Capitol Hill last month to discuss physician issues.

Since 2003, a dozen or so pay cuts were scheduled under the SGR formula, but each time Congress instituted what is now referred to as the “doc fix,” while practices continue to suffer the uncertainty each double-digit threat brings to their business.

Also in the law
The law extended some additional Medicare policies through 2012. Those include the work geographic adjustment “floor” for physician pay, the exemptions process for Medicare therapy caps, pay for the technical component of certain physician pathology services (through June 30) and add-on payments for ambulance services in rural areas.

Two policies, Section 508 hospital and special pathology payments, will be phased out, and mental health add-on payments and pay increases for bone density scans were eliminated.

Negotiators insisted that offsets for the $18 billion cost of extending current physician pay be achieved through cuts in health care programs. See the AMA website for details.

The newest delay moves any permanent effort to replace the SGR past the November elections, when access to care for seniors and military families will again be in question. Because of Congress’ failure to again repeal the SGR, the AMA projects the next cut, set for Jan. 1, 2013, will be approximately 32 percent.

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