December 22, 2011
Congress is at a standoff over legislation that would prevent the 27 percent cut scheduled to take effect January 1. The House rejected a Senate-approved, two-month freeze of current Medicare pay rates included in a two-month payroll tax extension package. The House previously passed a year-end package that included a two-year SGR patch with a one percent update as well as an extension of the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance. House Republicans are calling for the House and Senate to reconvene the last week of December to hold a conference committee to resolve the differences between the competing measures. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) has said he would not appoint conferees until the House first adopted the two-month stopgap.
Due to the impasse in Congress, the January 1 cut will take effect unless one of the chambers changes their position. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has announced it will hold physician claims for 10 business days starting Jan. 1. If lawmakers cannot agree on a retroactive pay patch by the time claims processing starts up after Jan. 17, CMS will be forced to apply the reduced rate.
The ACR does not support a short term fix and will continue to urge Congress to identify a workable solution to the SGR and move past the current physician payment system. Tell Congress how this affects you and your patients by using the ACR's Legislative Action Center.