On Jan. 1, Congress passed the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, in the Senate with a bipartisan vote of 89 to 8 and by a vote of 257 to 167 in the House of Representatives.
According to a press release from the National Association for the Advancement of Orthotics & Prosthetics, the bill delays the scheduled 2% across-the-board Medicare provider fee cut that was part of the sequestration for 2 months, thus increasing the O&P Medicare fee schedule by 0.8%. The bill also grants a 1-year extension of the current physician fee schedule, meaning that physicians serving Medicare patients for the next year will not have their fees cut by 27%. Medicare patients in need of outpatient rehabilitation therapy will also not be subject to the therapy caps set at $1,900 per patient, per episode of care. These extensions and other provisions cost approximately $30 billion, necessitating spending cuts to a number of Medicare providers including hospitals, ESRD providers, diabetic care suppliers, advanced imaging providers and others — but not O&P providers — to offset this cost.
The O&P profession was spared the budget axe in the bill as a result of intense advocacy, according to the release. The bill does not include any expansion of competitive bidding on orthotics and prosthetics, nor does it reduce O&P fees in other ways.