The new "fiscal cliff" legislation hailed by some as a "one-year doc fix" of the scheduled 26.5% sustainable growth rate (SGR) cut that was scheduled to take effect on 1 January 2013, has passed the Senate and House as part of the American Taxpayer Relief Act (HR 8) goes to President Obama for his likely signature.
But was this "one-year doc fix" really a fix?
Not at all.
In fact, once again Congress has failed to resolve the ever-present sustainable growth rate cuts that repetitively surface year after year by kicking the proverbial can down the road another year.
The cost of the one year patch will be $25.1 billion dollars over 10 years and will be paid for almost entirely by health care cuts in other areas.
Hospitals (increasingly doctor-employers now, remember?) will see audits of their billings increase as efforts to recoup some $10.5 billion of "overcoding" charges are seen as the largest source of revenue for the one-year "fix."
Hospitals will also see an extension of lower Medicaid payments to hospitals that treat a high number of uninsured or low-income beneficiaries, known as "disproportionate share hospitals" to find savings of about $4.2 billion.
Another $4.9 billion offset will be applied to the lowered bundled payments given for patients with end-stage renal disease - some of the sickest people receiving services from Medicare.
Also another $1.8 billion will be "saved" to offset the "fix" by reducing payments for multiple procedures that are performed on the same day with patients. Look for more ICD-9 (or ICD-10) code changes for the new year.
Also, look for an even greater crackdown on imaging studies as another $800 million has to be found to pay for the "fix."
And there's more: the complete list of payments for the "fix," drawn almost exclusively from health care alone, can be found here.
- Finally, doctors can expect revenue to stay flat result of this "fix" from Medicare, meaning that the payments received will not address costs imposed by annual inflation. (You well-paid primary care doctors, are you listening?)
So you see, the "doc fix" is in for another year alright ...
... one that is assured to get even harder to really fix next year.