CMS delays SGR payment cut, as it's set to take effect again

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A number of healthcare organizations are urging Congress to pass legislation to stop a 21 percent cut in physician payments for Medicare that is scheduled to go into effect today. And meantime, In a replay of the situation that took place a month ago, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has instructed contractors to hold Medicare claims for the first 10 business days in April to give Congress time to pass legislation.

The sustainable growth rate (SGR) cut was originally scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 1, but has since been twice postponed. The House of Representatives passed the Continuing Extension Act (HR 4851) on March 17 that would have delayed the cut until May 1, but the Senate went into a two-week recess without voting on the extension. Also, the House has yet to act on a separate Senate bill passed in March that includes a provision delaying the Medicare payment cut until Oct. 1.

According to the Senate calendar, the Senate is scheduled to reconvene on April 12, at which time it will again resume consideration of the Continuing Extension Act.

“One month ago when Congress delayed this year’s 21 percent cut to April 1, we urged them to use this time wisely to repeal the payment formula that projects these cuts,” said J. James Rohack, MD, president of the American Medical Association, in a statement blasting Congress for its inaction on the Medicare payment system. “It is unconscionable for elected officials to play politics with seniors and military families who rely on them to preserve their ability to see the physician of their choice.  Seniors, military families and their physicians need to let their members of Congress know that decisions made in Washington have real-world consequences, and that their inability to take permanent action on this critical issue is unacceptable.”

Lori Heim, MD, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, weighed in on the issue as well: "We understand there are multiple issues involved," said Heim. "However, our request is that they stop playing with this issue and resolve it so physicians who have Medicare patients can have a stable future."