The Senate late Thursday passed another short-term “doc fix” that spares physicians from a 23 percent Medicare payment reduction through the sustainable growth rate formula. The cost of the one month extension will be $1 billion over ten years, which will be paid for by reducing payments for multiple therapy services provided to patients in one day by 20 percent.
Before you start thinking that lawmakers are beginning to make the tough choices to pay for costly legislation, consider this: the reduction in therapy payments was already set to be carried through by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). CMS was going to impose a 25 percent reduction (after initially considering a 50 percent cut).
So Congress managed to pay for a patch for physician payments through a smaller reduction in payments for therapy services. Only in Washington.
Such sleight of hand will be more difficult to perform when Congress considers a longer extension. There is no painless solution. The sooner Congress realizes this, the better.