Physicians can expect Medicare fee cuts from 2004 to 2007, even as they begin to enjoy a 1.6% increase in Medicare fees effective March 1, according to a Congressional Quarterly report.
The report by Mary Agnes Carey, was released Wednesday and cites an interview with CMS Administrator Tom Scully last Thursday.
Carey says the 1.6% increase, negotiated into the omnibus budget bill a few weeks before passage by Senate and House conferees, was "deceptive" because "payments will be cut again in fiscal years 2004 through 2007 before rising slightly from FY 2009-FY 2012."
CMS will not comment on Scully's remarks, but the agency will pinpoint projected changes in Medicare fees in ensuing years in a letter to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission on March 1, a CMS spokesperson says.
Rich Trachtman, a lobbyist for the American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine, says he cannot confirm reports of upcoming fee cuts, but "it's not surprising."
Although congressional action allowed CMS to fix a flawed calculation that helped determine the payment rate and headed off a planned 4.4% cut for this year, Trachtman says Congress did not fix the actual formula, which ties the rate to changes in the gross domestic product, among other things.
"We've got a flawed formula, which ties reimbursements to the economy, so if you have a decline in the economy you would have cuts in reimbursements," Trachtman says.
He added that physicians groups will study the CMS letter to MedPAC, then decide how to proceed.
"There will be time to analyze CMS's figures and decide what the next step ought to be," he says.