Medicare payments to physicians in 2008 would drop nearly 10% under a proposed rule issued today by the CMS, which projects it will pay $58.9 billion to 900,000 physicians and other healthcare professionals next year.
Physician groups have pleaded with Congress to replace the sustainable growth rate formula, or SGR, which is tied to the health of the economy and is used to calculate physician payments under the Medicare program. It has been estimated that payments will drop by more than 40% by 2015 if the SGR is not replaced. Congress in the past has adopted interim measures to stop previous payment reductions.
Efforts have been brewing on Capitol Hill in the meantime to revamp the SGR. In a meeting last week, staff for the House Ways and Means and the Energy and Commerce committees shared with physician organizations a draft proposal to halt the 10% cut from taking effect next year. The proposal would replace the cut with at least a 0.5% increase in 2008 and 2009, and would repeal and replace the SGR payment system.
The CMS proposed rule on the 2008 physician fee schedule is expected to be published in the Federal Register on July 12. Comments on the proposal will be accepted until Aug. 31. -- by Jennifer Lubell