KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Medicare ‘Doc Fix’ Hostage To Fiscal Cliff Negotiations

The Obama administration notified more than 1 million physicians Wednesday that their Medicare payment rate would be cut by 27 percent next month if Congress doesn't act to stop it. But proposals for a one-year patch and even a repeal of the flawed payment formula are now caught up in the "fiscal cliff" talks.

Forbes: 27% Medicare Pay Cut For Doctors Real Danger In Fiscal Cliff
Unlike past years when Congress has headed off the Medicare fee cut, inaction in Washington lately on the fiscal cliff and for an entire year on the "doc fix" has the American Medical Association, the nation's largest doctor group, and physicians across the country worried there will not even be a stopgap measure this time around. "The threat is real," AMA president Dr. Jeremy Lazarus said in an interview. ... The Obama administration's latest offer to avoid the fiscal cliff to U.S. House Speaker John Boehner and Republicans in Congress includes a repeal of the SGR, which could cost more than $240 billion (Japsen, 12/20).

CQ HealthBeat: HHS Mails Doctors Medicare Payment Cut Notice
Just in case the nation's doctors weren't aware, the Obama administration on Wednesday sent out a notice to more than 1 million physicians telling them that their Medicare payment rate will be cut by 27 percent if Congress does not act to stop it. It's estimated that the reimbursement cut would mean $14 billion less in Medicare payments to doctors in 2013. But while the notice chastises lawmakers for not acting, it also lets doctors know that, practically, they won't see the payment cut as long as Congress finds a solution, a so-called "doc fix," by mid-January (Bunis, 12/19).

CQ HealthBeat: Medicare 'Doc Fix' Still High On House GOP Priority List
Although the issue is not addressed in the speaker's "Plan B" tax proposal, House Republicans are continuing to work on a measure to block upcoming payment cuts for Medicare physicians. The Obama administration released an analysis criticizing Speaker John A. Boehner's plan, noting that it did nothing to avert the 27 percent payment cut to doctors that is slated to take effect on Jan. 1, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California also highlighted the omission at a Wednesday press conference. But Republicans said a temporary patch, known as a "doc fix," is being discussed, and they emphasized the importance of moving legislation through Congress that addresses the issue  (Attias and Ethridge, 12/19).

Modern Healthcare: CMS Notice Spurs AMA To Stress Doc-Pay Fix
The American Medical Association on Wednesday called on Congress to act immediately to avert a looming 27% Medicare payment cut to physicians after a notice from the CMS indicated there will be no delay in the processing of claims payments under the Medicare physician fee schedule. "The threat is real and a cut of 26.5 percent is simply unsustainable," AMA President Dr. Jeremy Lazarus said in a statement (Zigmond, 12/19).

Medscape: Obama's Fiscal-Cliff Plan Said To Repeal SGR
President Barack Obama's latest plan to save the nation from the fiscal cliff includes a repeal of Medicare's sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula that otherwise will trigger a 26.5% cut in physician reimbursement on January 1, according to a source familiar with negotiations between Congress and the White House. The Medicare rate reduction is part of the automatic spending cuts and tax increases dubbed the "fiscal cliff" that take effect in January. ... The SGR crisis, a yearly event for physicians over the past decade, is a fiscal-cliff sideshow. Most of the jawboning between Obama, Senate Democrats who rule that chamber, and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), has been over the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts, which will raise everyone's rates (Lowes, 12/19).

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.