Doctors who accept Medicare patients are off the hook – for now.
A looming 27.4 percent cut in the payment rate was avoided when U.S. Congress agreed last week on a package that extends the Social Security payroll tax credit and unemployment insurance through the end of the year.
The Texas Medical Association warned last year that such a drastic payment cut would force about half of Texas doctors to consider withdrawing from the Medicare program. That would make it even harder for Medicare patients to find doctors.
But leaders at the medical association aren't doing cartwheels over the so-called "Doc Fix"
TMA has called on federal lawmakers to completely revamp the payment formula. The formula is intended to control Medicare costs by reducing reimbursements to doctors if the program's previous year's spending exceeds targeted levels, which first happened in 2001.
Spending has continued to surpass targets each year, but Congress has “kicked the can” down the road, making band-aid fixes to delay cuts instead of fixing the defective formula, according to the association. Meanwhile, that Medicare debt had grown to $350 billion, and the size of the proposed cut has grown with it.
On its website, TMA had this to say Monday under the headline “Congress Punts, Freezes Medicare Fees”
Rather than seize the opportunity to use leftover war money to scrap the Sustainable Growth Rate formula that cuts physician payments and threatens to drive them out of the Medicare program, Congress did what it has done for 10 years – opt for a short term solution. It stopped the 27.4-percent cut scheduled for March 1 and froze fees for the rest of the year, meaning it will have to consider the issue again by December and that a permanent fix will be even more expensive.