Will stop-and-start cycle of physician pay cuts ever end?

Physicians are enjoying a temporary reprieve from Medicare Part B pay cuts, but the battle is far from over. On March 2, President Obama signed into law the Temporary Extension Act of 2010, extending through March 31 the zero percent update to the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (MPFS) that was in effect for claims with dates of service January 1 through February 28. (This extension resulted in the immediate end of the 10-day hold that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services had instituted for claims paid under the MPFS.) 

Without additional action, the 21 percent pay cut will now take place on April 1. The Senate is considering a bill to extend the freeze even further and push the cuts back to Oct. 1.

The American Medical Association (AMA) has another suggestion. "The Senate should use this time to permanently repeal the flawed Medicare physician payment formula that puts access to care for seniors and military families at risk," said AMA President J. James Rohack, MD. "This vicious cycle of short-term delays that increase the size of the cut and the cost of reform for American taxpayers must come to an end. The U.S. House has already passed legislation that will permanently repeal the broken payment formula and replace it with one that better reflects the increasing cost of patient care. Now the Senate must act."

However, Senate leaders haven't indicated any plans to take up the House-passed payment overhaul bill.

To learn more about the status of the pay cuts:
- read the American Medical News article