December 10, 2006

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Congress Acts at Last Minute to Avert Medicare Payment Cut

In its last act of business before adjourning at 4:40am yesterday morning, the United States Senate followed the House in enacting the "Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006" which will prevent the 5% reduction in 2007 Medicare physician payments by freezing the Medicare conversion factor at its 2006 level.  The legislation also establishes a new physician quality reporting program,  beginning July 1, 2007, which will permit a 1.5% bonus payment to physicians who voluntarily report on 66 different quality metrics similar to the existing  voluntary reporting program.  Of particular importance to Maine, the work GPCI floor of 1.0 is extended for one more year, meaning that the payment zone in Maine that includes all of Maine other than Cumberland and York Counties will not receive an addiitonal 2.4% reduction which would have been the case had this legislation not been passed.  Watch for the MMA Weekly Update tomorrow for more details of this important bill.

The AMA, MMA and virtually all medical organizations in the country worked diligently for several months to urge the Congress to avert the planned reduction necessitated by the unfair sustainable growth rate formula.  We will have to begin work immediately working with the new Congress to permanently fix the formula so that physicians are not penalized for the growth in the volume of Medicare services.  Over one million contacts were made urging the Congress to help fix the problem.

Seantors Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins and Congressmen Thomas Allen and Mike Michaud were all helpful in achieving this result.  Please thank them for their efforts.

More details on the package of legislation will be provided in the regular Weekly Update published tomorrow.

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