Medicare Physician Fee Schedule Cuts Delayed Again

Congress Approves Extension of Delay in Cuts Through May 31, 2010

On Thursday, April 15, 2010, President Obama signed the “Continuing Extension Act of 2010” into law in an effort to avoid a Medicare meltdown for seniors and military families.  The law delays the 21% cut to the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule through May 31, 2010.

The new law is retroactive to April 1, 2010, when the previous delay expired.  The Centre for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) temporarily held claims for fourteen (14) calendar days from the April expiration date to allow time for the extension to be enacted.  CMS contractors will now reprocess any claims that were paid on the lower rate, and claims with a date of service before April 1, 2010 will be processed under normal procedures.

Although delaying Medicare payment cuts provides a temporary fix, it clearly does not provide a permanent solution to the problem.  As stated by J. James Rohack, President of the American Medical Association (AMA), “Physicians cannot keep their practice doors open to all Medicare patients without clear direction from Congress on Medicare payment rates.  Already, Medicare payment rates are far below the costs of providing patient care, and physicians are left wondering how they can continue to run a medical practice if Congress does not inject security and stability into the Medicare program.”

Nonetheless, the delay is still a blessing for the physicians that are under threat of bankruptcy due to the impending cuts.  In the meantime, the AMA has taken the lead and continues to work closely with Congress to develop and implement a long-term solution so that physicians can continue to provide care for Medicare patients.