Congress has delayed the expected fix to the projected 4.4% cut in the Medicare physician fee schedule. The payment cut took effect January 1.

Physician groups, including the American Optometric Association, lobbied hard to eliminate the Medicare fee cut. A specific provision was included as part of a broad deficit reduction bill. The provision would have stopped the cut and replaced it with a one-year fee freeze. The cut aims to mend a flawed formula for sustainable growth rate used to calculate Medicare updates on a yearly basis. 

But the bill was sidelined due to issues unrelated to the Medicare payment fix. In late December, Congress adjourned its 2005 session without giving the bill final passage.

Congress is expected to reconsider the bill sometime after it reconvenes on January 31. In the meantime, the AOA and other physician groups are working to get the fee cut fix to be retroactive to January 1, in anticipation that the revised bill will eventually be approved and signed into law.

Vol. No: 143:01Issue: 1/15/2006