MedPAC calls for 1 percent physician, hospital pay hikes

The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) on Tuesday officially recommended in its new report to Congress that physicians and hospitals receive a 1 percent increase in reimbursements under the Medicare program in 2012.

The report includes payment policy recommendations for 10 payment systems: hospital inpatient, hospital outpatient, physician and other health professionals, ambulatory surgical center, outpatient dialysis, skilled nursing, home health, inpatient rehabilitation facility, long‑term care hospital and hospice, notes CMIO.

When MedPAC used a survey to examine access to physician services, it found that most Medicare beneficiaries were able to schedule timely medical appointments and find a new physician when needed.

However, the commission noted some beneficiaries experienced problems--particularly when they were looking for primary care physicians. Certain market areas may be experiencing more access problems than others, MedPAC said, due to factors unrelated to Medicare--or even private--payment rates, such as relatively rapid population growth.

To judge whether payments for 2011 are adequate to cover the costs that efficient hospitals incur, the MedPAC panel said it examined several indicators of payment adequacy--and found them to be positive. However, the profit margins on Medicare patients "remain negative for 64 percent of hospitals," the report said.

MedPAC also  said it had contemplated a 2.5 percent increase for the hospital inpatient and outpatient prospective payment system. However, it decided to strike "a balance among several competing factors" by recommending a 1 percent increase.

For more details:
- see the March 2011 MedPAC report to Congress (.pdf)
- read the CMIO article