Seminole County Medical Society:
The Seminole County Medical Society would like to extend a great big thank you to all those who helped get H.R. 6331 passed! Recently, many doctors practicing in Florida were faced with a tough decision: Remain in or opt out of the Medicare program. This difficult decision was brought on by “The Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008” H.R. 6331 which called for a stop to the 10.6% cut this year and a 5% cut next year in Medicare physician payments. In a state where so many patients rely on Medicare, the physicians who care for these patients have gradually seen their insurance, medical supplies, staff costs, and overhead across the board increase year after year.
Back in late June 2008 the bill to stop these large cuts passed the House but lost in the Senate. Then, on July 15th after many phone calls and emails by concerned physicians within the state of Florida to their senators and representatives, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives passed H.R. 6331 to stop the 10.6% Medicare physician payment cuts that took effect on July 1st. However the battle was not over. The same day President Bush vetoed the important legislation. With Congress having the power to override a presidential veto, many constituents within the state of Florida were urged to contact their representatives as soon as possible to voice their concerns and push for the override. With the health care needs of seniors, the disabled and military families hanging in the balance, many within the state of Florida waited anxiously to hear what would be done by Congress. That same evening the Senate voted to override the President’s veto of H.R. 6331. The final vote was 70 to 26 and appears to have been a bipartisan effort to preserve patient access to care.
With H.R. 6331 now set to become law the state of Florida is safe for the remainder of 2008. The Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (MPFS) rate of -10.6% has been replaced with a .5% update which is retroactive to July 1, 2008. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), “under the Medicare statute, Medicare pays the lower of submitted charges or the Medicare fee schedule amount. Claims with dates of service July 1 and later billed with a submitted charge at least at the level of the January 1 – June 30, 2008, fee schedule amount will be automatically reprocessed. Any lesser amount will require providers to contact their local contractor for direction on obtaining adjustments. Non-participating physicians who submitted unassigned claims at the reduced nonparticipation amount also will need to request an adjustment.”
If the threat of cuts to Medicare physician payments continues the state of Florida will soon see many excellent physicians opting out of Medicare. This could have a detrimental effect on the quality of medical care in Florida for many patients. Florida doctors and patients have no choice but to continue to work to keep these cuts at bay so that quality healthcare can remain available to Medicare patients within the state.