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Congress Passes Bill to Stave-off Fiscal Cliff and Delays Medicare Physician Pay Cuts

By now most everyone knows that on Jan. 1, 2013 (in the middle of the night), Congress passed H.R. 8, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012.  The legislation includes a mix of tax measures and healthcare provisions.  President Obama signed the bill into law on Jan. 2, 2013.  The Senate passed the measure by a margin of 89-8, and the bill cleared the House of Representatives by a vote of 257-167.  Although it is not Feb. 2, 2013, it does feel like Groundhog Day.  Once again, Congress only passed a temporary delay of the sustainable growth rate (SGR), which yes, you guessed it, sets the stage for another 32 percent cut in January 2014.  That said, what most might not know are the key health-related provisions of interest to neurosurgery (which are included below):

  • Prevents the 26.5 percent Medicare physician pay cut, extending current Medicare payment rates through Dec. 31, 2013.
  • Allows physicians to participate in clinical data registries to meet Medicare’s quality reporting requirements.
  • Extends the geographic work adjustment through Dec. 31, 2013, preventing additional payment reductions for physicians practicing in rural areas.
  • Reduces hospital outpatient reimbursement for gamma knife stereotactic radiosurgery to the same level as radiosurgery performed with a linear accelerator.
  • Adjusts the equipment utilization rate for advanced imaging services, which may reduce reimbursement to physicians who own imaging equipment.

Given the aforementioned bullets are just some highpoints, we invite you to click here for a complete summary of the health-related provisions.

The legislation also included a two-month delay of the budget sequestration cuts that would threaten critical health programs, including Medicare, funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Additional details about the budget sequester are available from a previous Neurosurgery Blog post.

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