Congress delays Medicare payment cuts until June 1

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President Barack Obama signed into law the Continuing Extension Act of 2010, which delayed the 21 percent cut in Medicare physician pay...again.

Congress Thursday postponed the payment reduction until June 1. The Senate voted 59-38 to approve the postponement, while the House of Representatives followed by a margin of 289-112.

The cut had actually gone into effect April 1, but Medicare had held off paying claims on the assumption that Congress would act to postpone the reduction.

The action by Congress gives “itself time to work the differences in a separate bill that will take the SGR (sustainable growth rate)  to Oct. 1,” said Kevin Burk, director of government relations for the American Academy of Family Physicians. “We’re hoping the disruption to family physicians will be as small as possible.” The Senate passed a measure in early March that would delay the effective date of the cut until Oct. 1.

The American Medical Association (AMA) is one of many healthcare-related associations that have criticized Congress’s inability to work out a long-term solution to the sustainable growth rate issue.

“Fixing the Medicare physician payment problem is essential to the stability of Medicare. If Congress fails to repeal the formula, the problem will continue to grow. Seven times in seven years Congress voted not to impose cuts triggered by the flawed payment formula, putting off paying for it until another day,” said  AMA President  James Rohack, MD, in a statement preceding the votes yesterday. “Congress’ inability to solve this problem has not only made it impossible for physicians to keep seeing all Medicare patients, it has more than quadrupled the price of a solution for taxpayers.  It's irresponsible to continue short-term fixes just as baby boomers begin aging into Medicare next year. Congress needs to make the better fiscal decision and the better decision for seniors and repeal the formula now instead of putting it off again and increasing the price tag for America’s taxpayers.”