Prior to a 2-week recess, Congress failed to pass legislation to halt the 21% cut to physician payments for Medicare scheduled to take effect April 1. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is instructing contractors to hold Medicare claims for the first 10 business days of April in order to give Congress time to pass legislation postponing the cut.

“Members of Congress eager to spend a 2-week holiday with their families have left America’s military families and seniors to fend for themselves through their inaction on a known threat to the Medicare and TRICARE programs,” said J. James Rohack, MD, president, American Medical Association. “On April 1, a 21% Medicare cut to physicians begins. Congress’ failure to act on permanent repeal of the broken Medicare physician payment formula has put access to health care for seniors and military families in jeopardy. Physicians will be forced to limit the care they can provide to Medicare patients when payments fall steeply below the cost of providing care in a few days.”

Congress has already twice postponed the cut (originally slated to go into effect on January 1), and the House has already approved legislation (HR 4851) that would postpone the reduction until May 1. The legislation must now be approved by the Senate, which will require 60 votes to invoke cloture and to stop a filibuster by Sen Tom Coburn (R-Okla). The Senate cloture vote is scheduled for April 12 after members return from a 2-week spring recess, according to a statement from the American Psychiatric Association (APA).

"We’re disappointed that the Senate failed to act to block the SGR cut before taking a 2-week break,” said Nicholas Meyers, director of the APA Department of Government Relations. “Although the action by CMS is appreciated, this latest scramble only underscores the need for Congress to fix the SGR permanently. The current situation is unacceptable and jeopardizes patient access to care.”

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