Congress inability to meet the Bush administrations June 16 deadline to enact a law that would halt Medicare payment cuts to physicians is likely to cause at least a temporary hit to their reimbursement come July 1.
Amid partisan squabbles and dueling bills, lawmakers tried and failed to produce a bipartisan solution. On June 12, the Senate shot down legislation sponsored by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), making it more likely that physicians will be hit with a 10% cut to their reimbursement next month.
It will be disastrous if that cut goes through, said Joe Stubbs, an internist in a nine-physician practice in Albany, Ga. Stubbs said that his practice would immediately stop seeing all new Medicare patients and discontinue rounds at nursing homes. We would also likely scale back staff and discontinue services which are helpful to patients but are totally unreimbursed, like trying to get prior authorizations for meds, he said.
If legislation is enacted after June 16, the CMS will work to ensure that all providers are paid at appropriate rates, CMS spokesman Jeff Nelligan said.
In the meantime, the CMS is not extending its deadline. As weve said earlier, CMS needs legislation passed by the Congress and signed by the president by June 16 in order to have changes in our billing systems ready for July 1, he said.
On Capitol Hill, hope still lingers for a compromise, despite heated exchanges that followed the vote that blocked consideration of Baucus bill.
We all know what this vote was about, and it wasnt about whats best for American seniors, Baucus said in a written statement. The White House doesnt want overpaid private plans in Medicare to lose a single dime, he said.
An aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said the legislation would be brought up again before the Senate, though the White House has indicated it will veto Baucus bill.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the finance committees ranking member, said he hoped Baucus failed bill would lead to more effective negotiations. Grassley has an alternative bill that would also halt the payment cut to physicians, but contains different offsets from Baucus to fund the payment fix.