Physician Payments, Other Expiring Medicare Statutes, Extended for Two Months

Physicians will be paid at existing levels for services provided under Medicare at least until the end of February 2012 under legislation passed by Congress on Dec. 23 and signed into law by President Obama the same day. 

Without action by Congress, physicians faced a 27 percent reduction in Medicare payments on January 1, 2012. Under the new law, Medicare physician payments will be maintained at current levels until February 29, 2012. 

The “Temporary Payroll Tax Cut Continuation Act of 2011” (HR 3765) also keeps the payroll tax at the current 4.2-percent rate instead of reverting to 6.2-percent. The legislation includes some of the provisions previously commented on in this post.  

The legislation also extends for two months—until February 29, 2012—several other Medicare statutes that were set to expire on December 31, 2011, including –

  • the 1.0 floor in the work geographic index under the inpatient hospital prospective payment system for any locality for which the index is less than 1.0;
  • exceptions to the payment cap for services provided by physical and occupational therapists, and speech-language pathologists;
  • payment for the technical component of certain physician pathology services;
  • a temporary payment increase for rural ambulance providers;
  • the physician fee schedule mental health add-on payment;
  • the outpatient hold harmless provision for small rural hospitals;
  • the minimum payment for bone mass measurement;
  • the “qualifying individual” program under Medicaid; and
  • Transitional Medical Assistance under Medicaid 

In addition, the deadline for geographic reclassification of hospitals was extended from September 30, 2011, until November 30, 2011, for consideration for fiscal year 2012 reimbursement under the inpatient hospital prospective payment system.