Healthcare Business News

No action to avert Jan. 1 doc payment cut

By Jessica Zigmond
Posted: December 31, 2012 - 6:15 pm ET

A 26.5% Medicare payment cut to physicians set to start Jan. 1 now seems inevitable as lawmakers have yet to reach a deal that would avert a series of tax increases and spending cuts known collectively as the fiscal cliff.

An updated floor schedule from the House of Representatives showed the lower chamber will vote on other bills Monday evening, but will not consider fiscal-cliff legislation.

"The House has acted to avert the entire fiscal cliff," a GOP aide said in an e-mail. "There is still no deal from the Senate. We continue to wait for the Senate to respond."

As of 5:30 p.m. ET Monday, the Senate had not scheduled any votes for the evening. That, however, could still change, according to the Senate press gallery.

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Earlier Monday, President Barack Obama said in a news conference that a deal was within view, but still not final. Reports indicated that spending, not taxes, is the major stumbling block for lawmakers. Unless Congress acts, about $109 billion in federal spending cuts to defense and non-defense programs are scheduled to take effect for 2013. That includes about $11 billion in Medicare payment cuts, which—unlike other federal programs—are capped at 2%. Meanwhile, the nation's doctors are watching closely as many anticipated a temporary fix to Medicare's sustainable growth-rate formula would be addressed in the fiscal-cliff negotiations.

"It does not appear the House, and perhaps the Senate, will vote on a fiscal-cliff package tonight. Therefore the 27% SGR physician cut goes into effect at midnight," Anders Gilberg, senior vice president at the Medical Group Management Association said in an e-mail early Monday evening. "Congress must take immediate action to avert the cut to preserve access to physicians. It must ensure Medicare beneficiaries are not the victims of this last-minute political horse-trading frenzy."

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