Senate Extends Medicare Payment “Patch” for One Year

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The Senate today approved a one-year extension of the current Medicare payment formula, rejecting a last-ditch effort by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) to replace it with a permanent repeal of the entire payment formula.

The legislation averts a 24 percent cut in Medicare payments, which was scheduled to take effect on April 1.  For the rest of the calendar year, physicians will get a 0.5% increase. Rates will be flat for the first three months of 2015, at which time another cut is scheduled to take effect.

The legislation also delays the implementation of the new ICD-10 diagnosis code set until Oct. 1, 2015.

The final tally on the so-called “patch” bill was 64 to 35. Sixty votes were needed for passage. Both Massachusetts senators voted reluctantly in favor of the patch, and would have supported a permanent repeal if it were up for a vote today.

The MMS and AMA have opposed the patch bill (the 17th in the last 11 years), preferring a complete repeal of the payment formula.

MMS President, Ronald W. Dunlap, MD, said, “We’re very disappointed that Congress has again failed to fix the deeply flawed Sustainable Growth Rate Medicare payment formula. The legislation is sound policy that was supported by both parties, in both chambers of Congress. Yet, because its leaders were unable to overcome partisan differences over how to pay for it, we now have the 17th SGR patch in the last 11 years.

“The bitter irony is that every patch makes the problem worse. Congress could have solved the problem years ago by enacting a permanent repeal, and would have saved taxpayers tens of billions of dollars.

“The campaign to fix Medicare must continue, for the sake of the millions of seniors and military families who depend on the program for their health care. We’re deeply grateful to the members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation for their steadfast support for true Medicare payment reform, and pledge to work with them to achieve this goal – once and for all.”

We would like to thank the many physicians who contacted our congressional delegation to urge rejection of the measure.

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