Congress appears to be ready to soften proposed Medicare physician pay cuts and might make its aid good for two years instead of one, the executive vice president of Advion told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News Wednesday.

“We’re hearing the Hill is open to helping providers but not any more than they did last year,” said Cynthia Morton. “Any help will be 3% or less. It could be for two years (3% each year), which would be really significant because it would give the Medicare provider world time to suggest and recommend to Congress some reform so we’re not stuck like this running to Congress each year when CMS cuts us.”

Morton’s comments came the same day as a letter to Congress from provider advocates pleading that it prevent the PAYGO statute from taking effect. Morton said PAYGO would cut another 4% from reimbursement checks, but she’s confident Congress would not let it take effect.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services  proposed a cut of 4.47% to physician’s fees in November, a third straight year of such cuts as it has attempted to direct more resources to primary care, Morton said. Congress’ help last year dropped the proposed cut from 3.75% to 0.75%. Morton’s main worry when asking for relief is that Congress is fatigued with such requests.

“It’s not the providers’ fault CMS is making cuts,” she said. “We’ve got to maintain quality service and get help where we can.

“The best-case scenario is that Congress will help us with the entire cut, but we think that’s unlikely due to the fatigue feeling we’re getting and some communications (received). Congress will help us, they understand this is a priority, but they’re not going to be helpful for more than 3%.”

Morton said she has heard nothing but positive feedback on the Hill, but cautioned against too much optimism too soon.

“Congress doesn’t let you know negatives ahead of time so it makes it difficult to fight,” she noted.