Leg­is­la­tion a re­lief?

Not re­ally, say docs, in re­sponse to one-month fix

Modern Healthcare - - The Week In Healthcare - Andis Robeznieks

It’s called the Physi­cian Pay­ment and Ther­apy Re­lief Act of 2010, but the leg­is­la­tion Pres­i­dent Barack Obama signed last week of­fered lit­tle re­lief to med­i­cal prac­tices seek­ing to pre­pare their 2011 bud­gets and de­cid­ing whether to par­tic­i­pate in Medi­care next year.

The leg­is­la­tion was a tem­po­rary mea­sure that ex­tended a 2.2% in­crease in Medi­care re­im­burse­ment to physi­cians and post­poned a 23% pay cut.

Pat Smith, se­nior vice pres­i­dent for govern­ment af­fairs of the Med­i­cal Group Man­age­ment As­so­ci­a­tion, said the sit­u­a­tion re­minded him of the Bill Mur­ray movie in which the ac­tor’s char­ac­ter re­lives the same day over and over again. “It’s been like ‘Ground­hog Day’ ev­ery cou­ple months,” Smith said not­ing that last De­cem­ber, Congress also passed a tem­po­rary fix in the sus­tain­able growth rate for­mula, or SGR, used to cal­cu­late physi­cian Medi­care pay­ment rates. That was fol­lowed by tem­po­rary fixes in Fe­bru­ary, March and June.

“This is the year that the SGR for­mally be­came an af­ter­noon TV se­rial,” said Wil­liam Jessee, the MGMA’s pres­i­dent and CEO. “All year long, it’s been ‘Stay tuned for the next episode.’ ”

Smith said Congress is aware of the dif­fi­cul­ties this un­cer­tainty cre­ates. Dur­ing the MGMA an­nual con­fer­ence in Oc­to­ber, at­ten­dees sent some 3,700 e-mails to Congress de­mand­ing a so­lu­tion. Over the course of the year, Smith said MGMA mem­bers have con­tacted Congress more than 60,000 times on the is­sue. “It’s my un­der­stand­ing that it’s up on top of their to-do list,” Smith said. “Is it at the same level of the START treaty, or ex­tend­ing tax cuts or fund­ing the govern­ment for the next 12 months? Prob­a­bly not, but peo­ple un­der­stand the mag­ni­tude.”

Of­fi­cials at the Amer­i­can Med­i­cal Group As­so­ci­a­tion expressed sim­i­lar thoughts. “It’s

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