Senate Acts to Avert Medicare Physician Fee Cut
By Nora Colangelo and Jacqueline Finnegan*

On November 18, 2010, the Senate approved a bill that would postpone the scheduled 23% Medicare physician payment cut scheduled to take effect on December 1, 2010, for one month. If approved by the House of Representatives and signed into law by President Barack Obama, the 2.2% update in physician payments, set to expire on November 30, 2010, would remain through the end of the year.

The Senate nill, "The Physician Payment and Therapy Relief Act," seeks to offset the cost of maintaining the 2.2% update with savings achieved from a 20% reduction in payments for multiple therapy services provided to patients in a single day in the office setting and paid under the physician fee schedule. This payment reduction is less than the 25% reduction in the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ final rule under the Physician Fee Schedule for Calendar Year 2011 (scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on November 29), thus offering relief to therapy providers.

Further legislative action will be necessary to address Medicare payments to physicians beginning in 2011. H.R. 6427, introduced in the House November 18, would update the conversion factor and increase payments to physicians by 1% through the end of 2011. The House has recessed for Thanksgiving and is not scheduled to return until November 29.