Congress gives temporary reprieve from 2007 Medicare pay cut

February 1, 2008

In the final days of the 2007 Congressional session, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives provided a 6-month reprieve from a scheduled 10.1% cut in Medicare reimbursements for physicians.

In the final days of the 2007 Congressional session, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives provided a 6-month reprieve from a scheduled 10.1% cut in Medicare reimbursements for physicians. Instead, physicians were given a 0.5% increase. But unless Congress acts before June 30, the 10.1% reduction will go back into effect as if the reprieve never happened.

The American Medical Association and other groups were thankful for the reprieve but disappointed with the temporary nature of the bill. "We strongly urge Congress to break the tradition of short-term interventions that are not funded and fail to chart a course for replacing a flawed payment formula that is a barrier to improving quality and access to care for seniors," AMA Board of Trustees Chair Edward Langston, MD, told American Medical News (1/7/2008).

The AMA had been lobbying Congress to enact 2-year pay raises to reflect the rising cost of providing medical care. But party lines got in the way. While Senate Democrats got behind a 2-year update, Senate Republicans threatened to block the measure. To pass both houses and gain President Bush's signature, the compromise was the 6-month reprieve from a double-digit cut.