AMA: Delay physician payment cuts, new billing codes
It’s been a busy couple weeks for the American Medical Association (AMA). In advance of the looming Congressional recess, the association has been pushing for delays to both proposed physician Medicare payment cuts as well as new billing code rules put forward separately in a health-IT bill (HR 4157). Regarding the physician payment decreases, AMA Board Chair Cecil Wilson, MD, testified recently to a Congressional committee stating that “with cuts beginning January 1, it is critical that policymakers agree on a solution to avert Medicare cuts that will surely endanger seniors’ ability to get in and see the doctor.”

The cuts are part of a draft proposal to change the Medicare payments to doctors. Wilson stated that AMA “supports a multiyear solution as suggested…but instead of three years of modest updates, we urge modification to include two years of higher updates that reflect practice cost increases.” The association fears that not only will the payment cuts force physicians to stop offering certain services but also will prevent them from partaking in quality initiatives that have been put forward.
On the health-IT bill front, the AMA in conjunction with 78 medical groups has sought to delay suggested billing code changes called for in the legislation. The delay would be until 2012. To accomplish this, a letter was sent to Senate leadership that claims that the bill would be too costly for physician offices, with the billing codes forcing them to confront the “prospect of upgrading or replacing practice management systems for billing and coding and the necessity of retraining their billing and coding staff.”