21% Medicare Rate Cuts Temporarily Delayed

President Obama has signed H.R. 4851, the Continuing Extension Act of 2010, into law reinstating Medicare physician payments to where they were on March 31 and again postponing the 21.3 percent cut that was supposed to take effect in 2010. 

The legislation avoids the Medicare physician payment cut by extending 2009 rates through the end of May, as well as other expiring programs such as extended unemployment and COBRA benefits for individuals who have lost their jobs. 

This most recent extension of 2009 payment rates will be applied retroactively to all physician services provided to Medicare patients in April.  The legislation passed the Senate at about 5:45 last night by a vote of 59-38, and subsequently passed the House shortly after 8:00 pm by a vote of 289-112.

Yesterday, the hold on processing April claims that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) had placed to avoid implementing the payment cut technically expired.   However, CMS has stated that any claims paid that reflected the 21.3 percent cut will be reprocessed automatically without any action required from physicians.

The NCMS continues to work closely with the North Carolina Congressional Delegation on seeking a permanent fix to Medicare physician payments and eliminating the broken sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula.  The temporary fixes adopted by Congress have led only to potentially deeper cuts and prompting physicians to limit the number of Medicare patients they see or to consider opting out of the Medicare program.

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