Medicare payments to physicians in 2008 will drop nearly 10% under a final rule issued Thursday by the CMS, which estimates it will pay approximately $58.9 billion to 900,000 physicians and other healthcare professionals next year.
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, is the force driving the projected cut. It has been estimated that payments will drop by more than 40% by 2015, unless the SGR is replaced.
Congress in the past has adopted interim measures to stop previous payment reductions.
In other provisions, the CMS added more quality measures to the Physician Quality Reporting Initiative, a program that sets up financial incentives for physicians to participate in a voluntary quality-reporting program. A special physician-assistance and quality initiative fund totaling $1.35 billion will in part be used to extend the initiative, a CMS spokesman said.
The rule also encourages the use of electronic prescribing and adopts recommendations of an American Medical Association panel to increase payments for work involved in anesthesia services by 32%.
In a move meant to better align Medicare payments with the quality of care thats delivered in the outpatient and ambulatory surgical settings, the CMS in a separate final rule ties payments to quality reporting and expands bundled payments for a number of ancillary services.
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