President Barack Obama has signed the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, which continues current Medicare payment rates for the nation's physicians through Dec. 31, 2013.
Both chambers of Congress passed the legislation on New Year's Day to avert the fiscal cliff, a series of tax increases and spending reductions that were set to kick in on Jan. 1. The law also provided a one-year reprieve for doctors participating in Medicare, who had faced a 26.5% payment cut. The bill covers the cost of the physician payment fix by cutting billions from other Medicare providers
, including hospitals, pharmacies and dialysis clinics.
Safety net providers applauded Congress and the White House for sealing a fiscal-cliff deal but also urged lawmakers to spare Medicaid from spending cuts in upcoming deficit-reduction talks.
“Hospitals that care for large numbers of Medicaid and other low-income patients already have contributed significantly to federal healthcare savings, and will continue to do their part to improve quality and efficiency,” Dr. Bruce Siegel, president and CEO of the National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems, said in a statement. “But more federal spending cuts only will harm access to care and shift costs to state and local governments and taxpayers.”