In the early hours of January 1, 2013 the United States Senate, by a vote of 89-8 adopted legislation that prevents the majority of taxpayers from experiencing a tax increase; prevents the scheduled 26.5% SGR related cut in physician fee schedule payments for one year and delays the 2% across-the-board cut in Medicare payments until early March.
An agreement to forestall the harshest consequences of the fiscal cliff won approval after the measure, brought to the House floor less than 24 hours after its passage in the Senate, was approved 257-167 despite the objections of many conservative Republicans. President Barack Obama stated that he would sign the law today.
In lieu of the 26.5% SGR cut, the Senate approved a one-year freeze in the Medicare Conversion factor used to calculate Medicare Physician Fee Schedule payments. Congress also approved one-year extensions of several Medicare payment polices that were set to expire today.
Further Health Provisions used to “off-set” the cost of a temporary SGR fix:
- Payment for Certain Radiology Services. This provision would equalize payments for stereotactic radiosurgery services provided under Medicare hospital outpatient payment system. Savings of $0.3 billion.
- Adjustment of Equipment Utilization Rate for Advance Imaging Services. This policy would increase the utilization factor used in the setting of payments for imaging services in Medicare from 75% to 90%. Savings of $0.8 billion.
- Increase Statute of Limitations for Recovering Overpayments. This provision increases the statute of limitations to recover overpayments from three to five years, based on recommendations from the Office of Inspector General at the Department of Health and Human Services. Savings of $0.5 billion.
Medicare Provider Payment provisions extended as part of the Fiscal Cliff compromise:
Work Geographic Adjustment. This provision extends the existing 1.0 floor on the “physician work” index through December 31, 2013.