As expected, doctors were slapped with a 5% across-the-board cut in Medicare rates last week when the CMS officially announced 2007 reimbursements for about 900,000 physicians.
And also as expected, the medical communityfrustrated, uncertain and a little angrywill launch another last-ditch, year-end lobbying effort to try to persuade lawmakers to modify that cut or freeze payments at 2006 levels. Last year, Congress voted at the eleventh hour to freeze rates, handing doctors a fleeting victory.
Theres no telling what will happen this year, or whether the Republicans or Democrats will control the purse strings, observers said. We dont know; nobody knows, said Robert Doherty, chief lobbyist for the 120,000-member American College of Physicians.
In its final rule on 2007 reimbursements, the CMS said it will pay $61.5 billion to
U.S. doctors beginning Jan. 1. In a mild modification, the CMS adjusted the final figure from the 5.1% reduction that had been expected for the past several months, a tenth-of-a-percentage-point change that amounts to about $70 per doctor.
Doherty said the good news from the CMS was the shift of about $4 billion to provide higher payments for face-to-face visits with patients, or evaluation-and-management services. Yet those funds, which boost payments for internists, will come at the expense of physicians who focus on surgical procedures and imaging, among other areas, Doherty said.