Legislation seeks to eliminate 11% physician payment cuts

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Physicians have chance to increase reimbursement. Source: Heritage Auction Galleries  

A bill has been introduced into the Senate that would eliminate the nearly 11 percent Medicare physician reimbursement cuts scheduled for July 1.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D, Mich., introduced the "Save Medicare Act of 2008" on March 13. The bill (S. 2785) proposes to replace the scheduled 10.6 percent cut with a 0.5 percent update for the second half of 2008 and a 1.8 percent update for 2009.

Congress has intervened several times in the last half-dozen years to delay physician payment cuts. Late last year, Congress once again stepped in at the eleventh hour to delay for six months a scheduled 10.1 percent cut in Medicare physician payment. At the time, Congress initiated a 0.5 percent increase in physician reimbursement to last until July 2008.

The Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) conversion factor, which largely determines reimbursements, is not only scheduled to fall 10.6 percent on July 1, but also at least 5 percent each subsequent Jan. 1.

President Bush’s $3.1 trillion fiscal year 2009 budget proposed reductions to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' budget by $16 billion in 2009, $196 billion over the next five years and $619 billion over 10 years.

Bush said that his proposals would lower Medicare’s growth rate from 7 percent to 5 percent annually and eliminate one-third of the program’s 75-year unfunded liability of $34 trillion toward his goal of balancing the federal budget by 2012.  

Stabenow's bill has been referred to the Committee on Finance.