Pipeline May Cut Your Medicare Fees

A congressional dispute over an oil pipeline may cause the government to cut physicians' Medicare fees almost 30 percent on Jan. 1.

The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill Dec. 13 that postpones the reduction for three years and raises physicians' fees 1 percent in each of the next two years. However, the bill authorizes construction of an oil pipeline from Canada to Texas, causing Senate Democratic leaders to say they will not pass it and President Obama to threaten to veto it even if they do. Democrats also object to budget offsets Republicans want to use to pay for the bill.

Unless Congress acts before recessing for the holidays, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will cut Medicare payments to physicians 27.4 percent. 

American Medical Association President Peter W. Carmel, MD, once again urged Congress to find a permanent solution to the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula that mandates the fee reduction. He said the SGR "has been plaguing Medicare for over a decade, and permanent repeal is long overdue. The AMA again questions why Congress continues to spend increasing amounts of taxpayer money to preserve a policy that everyone knows is fatally flawed."

TMA and Action will keep you updated as the debate continues and Congress moves toward a recess.

Action, Dec. 16, 2011