Medicare payment rates for physicians would decline 4.5% next year under a final rule issued late yesterday by the CMS. The payment update, calculated annually with a formula set by statute, is a larger reduction than the CMS' initial calculation in August, a 4.2% cut. The American Medical Association and other physician advocates expressed serious concern about the effect of the rate reduction on physician practices after a 5.4% cut in 2002. Without congressional action, the payment formula would have required a similar rate cut in 2003; however, Congress enacted a 1.6% rate increase for physicians. Similarly, the Medicare reform bill being debated in Congress would replace the 2004 cut with a 1.5% increase that year and in 2005, but the bill's prospects are uncertain. The final rule also contains several changes to the update formula meant to better account for rising malpractice liability premiums and other expenses, the CMS said. The rule, to be published in the Nov. 7 Federal Register, is available on the CMS' Web site. Read the final rule. -- by Jeff Tieman
Medicare hits docs with bigger cut than expected
Send us a letter
Have an opinion about this story? Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor, and we may publish it in print.