CMS calls for temporary hold on Medicare cuts

July 1, 2008

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced Monday it is freezing the scheduled 10.6% cut in Medicare physician payments until mid-July. The move may give Congress enough time to pass legislation to avoid the cuts.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced Monday it is freezing the scheduled 10.6% cut in Medicare physician payments until mid-July. The move may give Congress enough time to pass legislation to avoid the cuts.

Current legislation allows CMS to withhold payments for 14 or 29 days from the date claims are filed either electronically or by regular mail, respectively. Taking advantage of this legal window, CMS will instruct contractors to hold processing of any practitioner's claims during the first 10 business days of July. CMS will process all claims received by June 30 as usual.

CMS is considering additional steps to weather the cuts scheduled by Medicare's Sustainable Growth Rate formula and other expiring Medicare and Medicaid provisions. The agency is set to release a comprehensive plan shortly, according to CMS officials.

In an emotional statement, American Medical Association president Dr. Nancy H. Nielsen had lashed out at lawmakers for missing the June 30 deadline.

"These senators leave for their 4th of July picnics knowing that the most vulnerable Americans are at risk because of the Senate's inability to act to stop drastic payment cuts for healthcare services that are needed by our Medicare and TRICARE [military health plan] patients," Nielsen said.

Physicians are outraged that a group of Republican senators followed the Bush administration prompt and voted to protect private sector interests at the expense of seniors and other patients, Nielsen said. She was confident that Congress would address the issue again after the July 4 break.

"The Senate must return from their recess and make seniors' healthcare its top priority. For doctors, this is not a partisan issue - it's a patient access issue," she said.

For more information from the Diagnostic Imaging archives:

Senate fails to pass legislation to avoid physician payment cuts

Senate legislation to avoid Medicare cuts stalls

SIIM vets discuss issues facing imaging informatics

IRs look for silver lining as government pushes quality