The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday rejected a Senate bill that would have averted a 27.4 percent Medicare physician payment cut scheduled for Jan. 1, leaving 2012 Medicare payment rates in limbo. A House-Senate conference committee will now be charged with working out differences between the two versions of the bill.
With both the House and Senate adjourning for the holidays, it does not appear likely that the outstanding issues will be resolved before Jan. 1. The House is scheduled to return to Washington on Jan. 17, while the Senate is scheduled to return on Jan. 23. However, there are reports that the House may move the date of its return up to Jan. 3.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced that it would hold claims for 2012 physician services for 10 business days—until Jan. 17—to avoid processing payments at the lower rate. After that date, claims will be processed on a first-in, first-paid basis at the reduced rates until the situation is resolved.
The AMA reaffirms its opposition to any short-term patches to the SGR formula, denouncing the political brinkmanship that left the issue unresolved until Congress was adjourning, and calling for a bipartisan effort to repeal the flawed and disruptive formula once and for all.
“It is long past time for members of Congress to act decisively and protect access to care for seniors and military families,” AMA President Peter W. Carmel, MD, said in a statement.
Stay tuned for further updates and ways to get involved.