Doctors wait patiently for Congress to act on 'doc fix'

Doctors across the United States are taking a wait-and-see approach while Congress decides whether or not to allow a scheduled 23% cut in Medicare reimbursement rates to take effect on Dec. 1.

Congress is expected to act to override the scheduled cut during its lame-duck session, which started this week. If Congress votes to allow the cuts to take place, as many as two-thirds of U.S. doctors would have to stop accepting Medicare patients, The Washington Post reported. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services finalized the Dec.1 date in its recent Medicare Physician Fee Schedule rule.

The reductions, which are tied to nursing home therapy reimbursement rates under Medicare Part B, are the result of budget-balancing measures that started in the 1990s. The American Medical Association and the U.S. Health and Human Services Department support a 13-month reprieve from implementing the cuts while Congress finds a more permanent solution. Republicans and conservative Democrats want it paid for, while the AMA and Obama administration support adding the cost to the deficit, the newspaper reported.