KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Without Fix, Docs Face 30% Medicare Pay Cut In 2012

This new figure, updated yesterday by Medicare officials from the previous 28.3 percent "cliff," means the president's plan to keep physician payments flat for the next two years will exceed - by as much as a billion dollars - the funding requested in his 2012 budget proposal.

The Hill: Medicare Ups Cost Of President's Proposed 'Doc Fix'
Physicians will see a 29.5 percent cut in their Medicare reimbursements come Jan. 1 unless Congress acts, Medicare officials said. The new figure represents an increase over the 28.3 percent "cliff" the Obama administration had relied on when crafting its proposed 2012 budget. That budget, unveiled last month, sets aside $62 billion to keep Medicare payments flat for the next two years; the new estimate means doing so could in fact cost a billion dollars more. Likewise, the 10-year cost of repealing the payment formula is likely to significantly surpass the $369.8 billion estimated in the president's budget (Pecquet, 3/10).

National Journal: This Year's Medicare Cut To Docs: 29.5 Percent
Physicians will get a pay cut of 29.5 percent in 2012 unless Congress makes a fix, the Department of Health and Human Services announced on Thursday. The estimate, sent by HHS to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, virtually ensures Congress will be embroiled in finding ways to pay for the expected $330 billion price tag while consoling medical groups long angered by the lack of a permanent fix. It is a familiar path for Congress. Each year since 2002, the Medicare payment formula has factored in reductions that Congress has overturned almost every time. Most medical groups, lawmakers, and policy experts agree that the formula is flawed (DoBias, 3/10).

Politico Pro: Medicare Docs Face Nearly 30% Pay Cut
Doctors who treat Medicare patients will face a nearly 30 percent cut in payments next year if Congress doesn't intervene, CMS officials said in a letter Thursday. Congress blocked a cut in payments late last year and agreed instead to a freeze until Dec. 31. But a two-year "fix" to avoid future cuts - proposed in President Barack Obama's fiscal 2012 budget - may fall victim to partisan squabbling over federal spending. A permanent fix is mired in debate over how - and whether - to offset its cost. The letter from CMS Deputy Administrator Jonathan Blum to the chairman of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission - obtained by POLITICO - says the 29.5 percent cut is required under Medicare's sustainable growth rate payment formula (Coughlin, 3/10).

CQ HealthBeat: Doctors Press Congress To Start Now On Fixing Physician Payment Formula
Medicare officials predicted Thursday that a scheduled cut to physician payments would amount to 29.5 percent if allowed to occur Jan. 1, and in letters to Congress doctors called yet again for a permanent solution to the troublesome Medicare physician payment formula. The American Medical Association (AMA) and 130 other state and medical specialty societies sent letters to House and Senate leaders saying Congress must start working now on a bipartisan and bicameral solution (Norman, 3/10). 

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