Congress approves last-minute 'doc fix'

Late Tuesday night, the House of Representatives voted 257 to 167 to approve the Senate's solution to avert the fiscal cliff, NBC News reported.

The package, which includes a one-year patch to block the scheduled 27 percent cut to physician Medicare fees, passed easily in the Senate on New Year's Day, with a vote of 89 to 8.

After intense criticism from conservatives of the spending contained in the agreement, the deal, expected to be signed by President Obama, pays for the temporary "doc fix" with other healthcare offsets, Roll Call reported. Among others, these cuts include $10.5 billion by adjusting some hospital coding rules, $4.9 billion in payments for end-stage renal disease care and $4.2 billion in payments to "disproportionate share hospitals," which treat large numbers of patients without insurance and those who are on Medicaid.

In written statements released early this morning, both the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) and American Medical Association (AMA) blasted Congress' failure to enact a permanent solution to the annual uncertainty caused by the sustainable growth rate.

"Physician practices need a stable, predictable Medicare payment system to allow them to make sound, long-term decisions to invest in their practices, position themselves for the future and provide the highest quality care to the Medicare patients they serve," said MGMA-ACMPE President and CEO Susan L. Turney.

AMA President Jeremy Lazarus concurred, stating, "This last-minute action on the part of Congress is a clear example of how the Medicare program is increasingly unreliable for physicians and patients. This instability stalls progress in moving Medicare toward new healthcare delivery models that can improve value for patients through better care coordination. Physicians want to work with Congress to move past this ongoing crisis and toward a Medicare program that ensures access to care and the best health outcomes for patients and a stable, rewarding practice environment for physicians."

With a permanent solution nowhere in sight, doctors are increasingly abandoning the Medicare program regardless of patches, a recent post from Forbes noted.

To learn more:
- see the story from NBC News
- read the post from Roll Call
- read the post from Forbes
- read the statement from the MGMA
- see the statement from the AMA
- check out the bill