Meanwhile, the bill also extends for two months a host of Medicare and health-related provisions that would otherwise have expired by year's end. These measures include reimbursement raises for ambulance services, mental health reimbursements, the Qualifying Individual (QI) program, the outpatient “hold harmless” provision, and transitional medical assistance, which provides Medicaid benefits for low-income families who are transitioning from welfare to work.
In a statement, American Medical Association President Dr. Peter Carmel said waiting until the final week of the legislative session to address an issue Congress knew about all year is no way to conduct business for the country.
"We strongly commend the bipartisan work by Senators Baucus (D-Mont.) and Kyl (R-Ariz.) to develop a framework to permanently repeal the universally criticized Medicare physician payment formula and urge all members of Congress to pursue a similar effort," Carmel said in his statement. "It is time for Congress to act on previous commitments to repeal the failed Medicare physician payment formula. The 12 temporary patches that Congress has applied have raised the cost of solving the problem by more than 500% over the last few years and eroded patients' access to care. A permanent solution is the long overdue, fiscally responsible approach.”
Anders Gilberg, senior vice president of government affairs at the Medical Group Management Association, said his organization was disappointed by the short-term fix.
"It sets up a situation like 2010 where congress averted the medicare physician cuts five times," Gilberg said in an e-mail following the vote. "The lack of visibility this approach creates for physician practices will no doubt impact their willingness to incur the risks associated with accepting new Medicare patients in 2012," he added. "We are hearing from MGMA members every day and their faith in congress's ability to responsibly address physican Medicare payments is at an all-time low."