CMS Administrator Mark McClellan said simply raising the Medicare physician update would be no solution to reimbursement problems because such a move would result in a massive increase in Medicare. Speaking before a House Ways and Means subcommittee, McClellan instead pushed for the CMS' pay-for-performance initiative. A bill expected to be introduced next week by Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.) would remove prescription drug pricing from the sustainable growth rate formula used to help set physician reimbursement and gradually phase out the formula. Doctors face a 4.3% Medicare rate cut in 2006 under the current formula. In his subcommittee testimony, McClellan said there has been clamor to remove drug pricing from the formula, but the CMS may not have the legal authority to do so of its own.
Separately, the Senate unanimously passed a bill that would establish protections against lawsuits for providers in cases where they voluntarily report medical errors to patient-safety organizations. The organizations would use the reports to develop strategies to prevent errors. A companion bill in the House is in committee. -- by Tony Fong