Legislation a relief?
Not really, say docs, in response to one-month fix
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