A sharp 23% cut to Medicare physician fees is scheduled to take effect Dec. 1 and will be followed a month later by another 1.9% reduction under final rules released by the agency that oversees Medicare and Medicaid. The CMS announced the 24.9% reduction as of Jan. 1 in final rules for upcoming payment changes for doctors and also published final rules for home health agencies, hospital outpatient and ambulatory surgery centers. The steep cut to Medicare physician pay is scheduled under the contentious sustainable growth-rate formula, which Congress has moved to override each year since cuts took effect in 2003 and the American Medical Association has lobbied to repeal. Congress last delayed a scheduled physician pay cut of roughly one-fifth in June and in the latest CMS rule, the agency called a long-term solution “critical” and said officials “are committed to permanently reforming the Medicare payment formula.” The CMS said the rules also include newly adopted payment incentives of 10% for primary-care providers and general surgeons in health professional shortage areas under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Provisions of the Affordable Care Act, combined with inflation and wage updates and other adjustments, will reduce home health payments by 4.89% in 2011, the CMS said. The final rule for outpatient hospital payments increases the quality measures that must be reported in the 2012, 2013 and 2014 to be eligible for full payment and also implements a prohibition on new or expanded physician-owned hospitals, the CMS said. The agency said it would increase to 15 the number of measures reported in 2012 and add another eight in 2013, but did not adopt proposed measures for 2014.
CMS releases final doc-fee revisions
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