Medicare Physician Payment Cuts Averted

Jan. 3, 2013

The 26.5% cut in Medicare physician reimbursements mandated by the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula was averted in an 11th hour vote Tuesday in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The House voted to pass the "fiscal cliff" bill approved earlier by the Senate, which delays the SGR cuts for one year and delays another 2% cut due to sequestration for two months. The cuts were scheduled to begin on January 1.

“Medicare patients will find it a little easier to find physicians willing to take Medicare now that the 26.5 percent in reimbursements has been averted,” said ACEP President Dr. Andrew Sama. “I urge members of the 113th Congress to adopt a permanent fix to this annual problem.”

The bill cleared the House on Tuesday by a vote of 257-167; the Senate passed the same bill in an 89-8 vote just after 2 a.m. The SGR "fix" was included in negotiations as part of a broader deal to avert the so-called "fiscal cliff,” a series of dramatic spending cuts and sharp tax increases.

ACEP Member and U.S Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV) crossed his party line to vote in favor of the bill. Check online to see how all members of the House and Senate voted.

The bill passed Tuesday is only a partial solution, however, aimed primarily at averting tax increases on the middle class. The agreement leaves tax rates as they are for families earning less than $450,000 and extends a number of other tax breaks.

President Obama signed the bill late Wednesday.

The cost of the one-year patch is $25.1 billion over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The cost is offset by a variety of adjustments to several other Medicare providers, many of which have been used to pay for previous “doc fix” patches.

Democrats resisted pressure to pay for the cost of the fix by cutting spending from the Affordable Care Act, according to the Obama administration.

In the coming months, lawmakers must still deal with raising the nation's borrowing limit and long-term government spending.

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