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Congressional Advisory Commission Proposes Medicare Cuts to Specialty Physicians to Protect Primary Care

Monday, September 19, 2011

On September 15, 2011, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC), the commission tasked with advising Congress on Medicare payment issues, reviewed a draft recommendation that would cut payments to specialty physicians such as anesthesiologists by nearly 18 percent over three years. The recommendation is part of a proposal to replace the flawed Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula with a 10-year budget-neutral payment plan that differentiates specialty physicians from primary care physicians. 

For specialty physicians, the draft recommendation would reduce payments 5.9 percent annually in years 2012, 2013 and 2014, followed by payment freezes for the final seven years. Payments for primary care specialties would be exempt from the payment reductions and would instead be frozen at current 2011 levels for the entirety of the 10-year period. 
In response to the proposal, ASA President Mark Warner, M.D., said:

“MedPAC’s draft approach to addressing Medicare payments to physicians is ill-advised. Including anesthesiology with its existing 33 percent payment problem among those targeted for additional payment reductions is not an approach we will support.  Indeed, three years of payment reductions combined with seven years of payment freezes falls far short of our expectations of real Medicare payment reform.  We urge MedPAC to rework its recommendations to reflect anesthesiology’s unique payment problem and the increasing costs to physicians of providing care to Medicare beneficiaries.”   

The Commission is expected to vote on this draft recommendation during its next meeting, October 6-7, 2011.

Read ASA's formal response to the draft recommendation. 


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