The House of Representatives has returned from a winter break and is slowly beginning deliberations on pressing legislative priorities, including legislation to avert a potential 27.4 percent cut in Medicare physician payment rates. The Senate returns to Washington January 23.
House lawmakers will hold truncated sessions over the next two weeks to begin work on the legislative agenda. An immediate legislative priority for Congress is reaching an agreement on legislation to provide relief from scheduled Medicare payment cuts for physicians for the remainder of 2012. Prior to adjourning for 2011, Congress reached an eleventh hour agreement to temporarily avert a 27.4 percent physician payment cut that was scheduled to begin on January 1. The provision, lasting through February 29, was included as part of a larger legislative package that also provides benefits for the long-term unemployed and extends a Social Security payroll tax reduction.
A House-Senate conference committee is working on a full-year plan beyond the current two-month extension that was reached as Congress left town in mid-December. Conferees are not expected to meet this week, however, and are not yet close to serious negotiations. Conference negotiations hinge largely on House-passed provisions that increase premiums on higher-income Medicare beneficiaries and cut spending elements of the 2010 health care law, which offset the cost of the payment extensions.
Because Congress will still need to negotiate a deal to avert Medicare payment cuts for the remainder of 2012, all ASH members are encouraged to participate in ASH's advocacy efforts on this issue. Visit the ASH Advocacy Center today to take action to urge lawmakers to address and correct the physician payment formula and encourage your colleagues to do the same.
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