It’s over! Late Tuesday, January 1 the House of Representatives passed the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, averting tax increases and spending cuts from going into effect. The House voted 257 to 167 to send the measure to the White House. Among the Arkansas Delegation, Democrat Mike Ross and Republican Steve Womack supported the bill. Republicans Tim Griffin and Rick Crawford opposed it.
The following was provided by the AMA:
A nearly 30% cut in Medicare physician payments was averted yesterday (Jan. 1) when the House of Representatives passed H.R. 8, the American Taxpayer Relief Act, also known as the Middle Class Tax Relief Act. Previously the Senate approved the package on a vote of 89-8.
The following health provisions were included in the package:
- Extends current Medicare physician payment rates through Dec., 31, 2013 ( avoids 26% SGR cut)
- Extends Geographic Work Adjustment (1.0 floor) through Dec 31, 2013
- Defers sequestration cuts for two months (2% cut in Medicare payments and larger program cuts for other health programs —research/public health/health professions training)
- Includes provisions to create path to improve the provision of relevant and timely data to physicians needed in new delivery and payment models
- Allows physician participation in clinical registries to meet Medicare quality reporting requirements
- Provides one year reauthorization of funding for National Quality Forum
A summary of the health provisions in the package can be seen at: fiscalcliffsenatedec31pkg doc.
The $25 billion cost just for the SGR patch and additional expenses for other Medicare extender provisions were offset with an array of provisions. (click here for offset summary: fiscalcliffsenateoffsetsdec31 doc) On a positive note, proposals to eliminate the increase in Medicaid payments for primary care services and remaining funds for prevention (ACA provisions) were not adopted. Unfortunately, payments for advanced imaging services will be reduced based on a change in assumptions regarding the utilization of equipment. Other offsets included extending the statute of limitations from three to five years for recoupment of overpayments and elimination of unobligated funds for health insurance co-ops authorized by the Affordable Care Act. Existing obligations to health insurance co-ops will be honored.
Physician practices would have been devastated if these cuts were not averted. We ask everyone in the physician community to join with us in continued pressure on Congress to permanently repeal the SGR to enable medicine and policymakers to focus on delivery and payment reforms which is the proper course of action.