Legislators prepared to halt pending physician payment cut

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Lawmakers in Washington plan to move forward with legislation in the next two weeks to prevent a 10.6% cut in Medicare physicians' payments.

Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) has proposed $18.2 billion in cuts to Medicare Advantage plans in order to fund physicians' payments. Republicans in Congress and the Bush Administration are expected to block the measure, citing extreme opposition to any reduction to the Medicare Advantage program. Sens. Herb Kohl (D-WI) and Chuck Grassley (R-I) are working to include a provision in the bill that would crack down on nursing homes for substandard care. The physician payment cuts are scheduled to take effect on July 1.

Nursing home advocates have feared that lawmakers will attempt to cut into the skilled nursing facility market-basket update to offset the cost of restoring the physician payment. The market-basket update is an annual payment increase for providers to account for the cost of providing goods and services.