Published 5/1/2010
Mary Ann Porucznik

Yet another short-term fix

On April 15, 2010, Congress approved and President Obama signed the “Continuing Extension Act of 2010.” This law delays a scheduled 21.2 percent reduction in Medicare physician reimbursements until June 1, 2010.

The Senate vote was 59 to 38; the House passed the measure by a vote of 289 to 112, and the president quickly signed the bill into law.

The law is retroactive to April 1, 2010, when the cuts were due to go into effect.

Because Congress failed to act before adjourning for its spring break, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), had agreed to delay processing claims for 10 business days, until April 14. CMS has said that any claims paid with the 21.2 percent cut will be reprocessed automatically without any action required from physicians.

Congress is expected to take up legislation that would extend the current payment rate until Oct. 1. The House and the Senate have passed separate bills to achieve this extension and negotiations are ongoing, mainly focused on how to pay for the bill.

“Once again, we can see how Congress’s failure to permanently fix the flawed sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula is jeopardizing the relationship between physicians and patients—particularly Medicare patients—who may most need their services,” said Peter J. Mandell, MD, chair of the AAOS Council on Advocacy.

“The AAOS has consistently advocated for a permanent fix, instead of these ongoing short-term efforts, and the longer that Congress delays, the more stressful the situation will become, not only for physicians and their staffs but more importantly, for patients and their families,” added Dr. Mandell.

Mary Ann Porucznik is managing editor of AAOS Now. She can be reached at porucznik@aaos.org