Senators invite provider input on Medicare 'doc fix'

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The leaders of the Senate Finance Committee have called for healthcare providers to weigh in on possible changes to the Medicare physician payment system.

Under the current Sustainable Growth Rate system, Congress has acted each year for about a decade to prevent cuts to physician pay. The next cut, of 25%, would take effect Jan. 1, 2014.

To compensate for maintaining physician pay levels, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has had to cut spending elsewhere. This has led to reduced reimbursements for skilled nursing providers collecting on bad debt, for example. While protesting these offsets that take a bite out of their payments, long-term care providers have also expressed concern that if doctors' pay is cut, it could negatively affect elder care.

The Congressional Budget Office recently said that freezing physicians' pay for 10 years would cost about $100 billion less than the agency previously announced. This has spurred hope that a permanent “doc fix” can be hammered out. To this end, the Senate Finance Committee is asking for provider input.

“The annual uncertainty generated by potential cuts is not fair to physicians and other providers, but most importantly it is not fair to our seniors who need access to their caregivers,” the Committee letter stated.

Click here to access the full letter.