Fight to fix cuts in Medicare physician reimbursement continues

March 1, 2007

In eleventh-hour negotiations before Congress ended its session last year, legislators found funding to prevent a scheduled 5% cut in Medicare reimbursements to physicians and provide additional payment to those who report quality measures. While the reprieve is good news for 2007, it will not roll over into 2008. Instead, the Congressional Budget Office reported that the recent tax and health bill will result in a 10% cut in Medicare payment rates next year, according to Modern Healthcare (1/8/2007).

In eleventh-hour negotiations before Congress ended its session last year, legislators found funding to prevent a scheduled 5% cut in Medicare reimbursements to physicians and provide additional payment to those who report quality measures. While the reprieve is good news for 2007, it will not roll over into 2008. Instead, the Congressional Budget Office reported that the recent tax and health bill will result in a 10% cut in Medicare payment rates next year, according to Modern Healthcare (1/8/2007).

While the double-digit figure has many physicians worrying whether they will be able to afford to provide services to Medicare patients, there may be a temporary fix. Congress has allocated about $1.35 billion to Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, which he can use to offset cuts in physician reimbursement rates next year. These funds are expected to help bring the payment cut down to about 5%.

But this is yet another temporary solution. Unless Congress is able to adequately fix the equation Medicare currently uses to determine reimbursement payments, medical groups and lobbyists will have to urge lawmakers, once again, to find funding to offset cuts.