Medicare payments to physicians in 2008 will drop nearly 10% under a set of final payment regulations released by the CMS on Nov. 1. The CMS estimated 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 in the regulations, 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 regulations also encourage the use of electronic prescribing and adopt 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 set of regulations tied payments to quality reporting and expanded bundled payments for a number of ancillary services. Under those regulations, hospitals would receive an overall increase in Medicare payments in 2008 to $36 billion from $32.7 billion this year.
Docs hit hard by 2008 Medicare fee schedule
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