A bill introduced in Congress on Wednesday would align more closely the increasing costs of caring for patients with reimbursement to the physicians who treat them, said Rep. E. Clay Shaw Jr. (R-Fla.), one of the bill's sponsors. Shaw and Rep. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.) introduced the Preserving Patient Access to Physicians Act of 2005 to prevent proposed cuts to the rates for doctors who treat Medicare patients.
Under current Medicare law, the sustainable growth rate, a formula used to keep Medicare spending for physician services in check, "does not accurately reflect beneficiary utilization of doctor services," Shaw said. The 2005 Medicare Trustees Report estimates that the current physician payment system will cut physician reimbursements by 26% over the next six years, beginning with an across-the-board 4.3% cut on Jan. 1, 2006.
The proposed act would repeal the current formula and replace it with an annual Medicare payment update for physicians that reflects practice cost increases. It would provide doctors with a payment update of no less than 2.7%, in 2006, the amount recommended by the Medicare Payment Advisory Committee, with the annual update beginning in 2007.