Senate Vote to Delay Medicare Cut Expected This Week

April 13, 2010

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Congress returned on April 12 from its Spring Recess and voted (60-34) on a motion to consider HR. 4851, a bill that extends a number of expiring programs including the reprieve from the 21-percent Medicare physician payment cut. The House has already passed this bill, but the Senate was unable to overcome an objection to vote on this bill before its recess. Passage of this procedural motion means the Senate will have a limited time for debate before a final vote on this bill later in the week.

As a result of Congressional inaction, the scheduled 21.3-percent Medicare pay cut went into effect on April 1. Anticipating a legislative fix once the Senate reconvened, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) instructed its carriers to hold all claims for services provided on or after April 1 for 10 working days to avoid having to make adjustments should the Senate subsequently pass HR. 4851. This grace period will expire on April 14.

It is uncertain how much debate will be allowed before the Senate will hold a final vote on HR. 4851. A vote could take place on Wednesday or be pushed back to later in the week.

If HR. 4851 is not passed and signed into law by the close of business on April 14, carriers will then have to process claims for April services with the 21.3-percent cut.

This is now the second time in two months that Congress has allowed short-term reprieves from the 2010 Medicare payment cuts to expire before taking action. This underscores the urgency of finding a better solution to this now predictable cycle putting practices and patients at risk.

The AAN continues its steadfast opposition to more short term "reprieves" and strongly advocates in favor of permanently replacing the broken Medicare sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula with a stable payment system based on actual practice costs. If you have not done so already, email your Senators today.