Last night the U.S. Senate voted 92-8 to prevent cuts in payments to Medicare patient providers. It came right down to the wire, as the current funding formula expired on April 1. However, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services note that it takes a minimum of 14 days to pay claims from doctors. This meant a Senate had until midnight Tuesday before checks went out. President Obama is expected to quickly sign the bill into law.
The bill would repeal the current Medicare payment formula and replace it with one that would increase payments by .5% every year through 2019. After that, providers would receive bonuses or penalties depending on performance scores from the government. This move follows current trends moving towards pay-for-performance and away from traditional fee-for-service methodology.
Congress has been struggling with these issues since lawmakers enacted Balanced Budget Act of 1997 in an effort to slow the growth of Medicare spending. “Passage of this historic legislation finally brings an end to an era of uncertainty for Medicare beneficiaries and their physicians— facilitating the implementation of innovative care models that will improve care quality and lower costs,” Dr. James Madara, chief executive officer of the American Medical Association said.