House Approves Medicare Fee Increase

The U.S. House of Representatives finally acted late yesterday, June 24, 2010, and reversed the 21.3-percent cut in Medicare payments to physicians. The House approved Senate-passed legislation that raises fees by 2.2 percent through Nov. 30.  President Obama signed the bill June 25.

The increase will be applied retroactively for claims for services on or after June 1.

The president said he believes "we need to permanently reform the Medicare formula in a way that attacks our fiscal problem without punishing our hard-working doctors or endangering the benefits on which so many of our seniors rely. I look forward to working with Congress to achieve that goal…"

Texas Medical Association President Susan Rudd Bailey, MD, said the house "voted to stop the bleeding, but our Medicare system is still on life support. Physicians and our patients greatly appreciate that Congress has reversed the 21.3-percent cut in physicians' Medicare payments that took effect June 1. We appreciate the 2.2-percent increase that will run through Nov. 30. But as speaker after speaker - including four Texans - noted on the House floor, we've had enough of the Band-Aids. We need a brand new payment system. I don't want to be watching Congress wrestle with this turkey of an issue on Thanksgiving."

Dr. Bailey said a survey of TMA members found that the ongoing cash flow problems and constant uncertainty over Medicare payments have led Texas physicians to take, or consider, some drastic steps. Nearly two-thirds will reduce the number of Medicare patients they see, 55 percent will refuse all new Medicare patients, and half will lay off staff."

"We need a rational Medicare physician payment system that automatically keeps up with the cost of running a practice and is backed by a fair, stable funding formula," she said. "I am ready, right now, to roll up my sleeves and get to work. But physicians can't do it without Congress. And our patients, your constituents, need us to work together now and get this done."

Under orders from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, TrailBlazer Health Enterprises has been processing claims at the lower rate since June 18. Although the Senate voted to raise fees on June 17, the House had recessed for the weekend without acting on the Senate bill.

The ongoing congressional dysfunction is why TMA continues to gather signatures on the Stop the Medicare Meltdown petition urging Congress to permanently fix the Medicare physician payment system. Have you signed it yet? Have you asked your friends, family, and neighbors to sign it? If not, please do so today. Rarely has there been an issue as important to medicine as the impending Medicare crisis.

You must act now and sign the petition. You must let the members of Congress know that you and your patients are watching their every action and care deeply about this issue. Congress keeps telling us that physicians don't care because they never hear from them. Let's prove to Congress that "PHYSICIANS AND PATIENTS DO CARE." 

TMA asks every physician to sign the petition. After you sign it, please ask your friends, family, and neighbors to sign it until you get 10 signatures or more. If you belong to civic groups, take the petition with you to meetings.

If you want hard copies of the petition, call Pam Udall at TMA at (800) 880-1300, ext. 1382, or (512) 370-1382, or download one from the TMA website  ( PDF ).

Note: Due to HIPAA regulations, we recommend that you not collect signatures directly from your patients nor use patient lists to disseminate this information without first having a HIPAA-compliant patient authorization to do so. You can post this flyer  ( PDF ) in your waiting room.


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