A joint House-Senate conference committee has reached a tentative agreement on a bill that delays a 27.4% Medicare physician payment cut scheduled to take effect March 1. The House may vote on the bill later this week.
The bill also extends the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits. The $20 billion Medicare payment fix would reportedly be offset by cuts in other sectors of the federal health care budget.
The conference committee started deliberations in late January. On Feb. 9, the House voted to reconsider the bill. On Dec. 23, the House passed a bill that delayed the payment cut for 2 months.
An original House version of the bill, passed Dec. 13, called for a 2-year delay of the Medicare payment cut and extension of the payroll tax cut. On Dec. 17, the Senate passed a bipartisan compromise measure that called for a 2-month extension of the payroll tax cut and current Medicare physician payment rate. The House rejected the Senate measure and voted to send the bill to conference Dec. 20. House Republican leadership changed course and endorsed the 2-month extension.
The physician payment cut results in part from the sustainable growth rate (SGR), a key factor in annual Medicare payment updates. The American Medical Association and various other medical societies have
called for the SGR to be amended or repealed.