College of American Pathologists
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February 15, 2012
© 2012 College of American Pathologists
Special Report
Congress Nears Medicare Deal

According to reports on Capitol Hill, Congress is near voting on a bill on a number of Medicare provisions. Details are still coming in, and nothing is confirmed until a bill is passed. But for now, the bill includes:

  • Avert the 27.4% cut in Medicare physician pay and extend the 2011 Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula through the end of 2012.
  • Four-month extension of the TC-Grandfather, phasing out and terminating in July 1, 2012.
  • Extend the floor on geographic adjustments to the physician work component through 2012.
  • Cut $2.7 billion over 10 years from the Clinical Laboratory Fee Schedule.

Agreement on the SGR patch came shortly after House Republicans agreed to extend the payroll tax cut without offsetting its cost with other cuts. This allowed budget negotiators appointed by the Senate and House in December, to focus on cutting $50 billion rather than $150 billion to extend the bill’s three largest programs: the payroll tax cut, the SGR patch, and long-term unemployment benefits.

“There’s no question we appreciate Congress’s action on averting the 27.4% pay cut. That is a scary number,” said CAP President, Stanley Robboy, MD, FCAP. “But we are disappointed lawmakers are not taking the opportunity to use the savings realized from military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and other unspent allocations, to prevent ever having to return to this issue again. As it stands now, we will be in the same position and possibly worse position when we are forced to return to this problem again in the fall.”

“The College is concerned that such a deep cut to the Clinical Lab Fee Schedule, compounded with other cuts in health care reform, will be overly burdensome to medical laboratories,” Robboy said. “We hope savings can be found in other ways so that patients will not be impacted.”

Negotiations are continuing in the Capitol, and CAP Advocacy is continuing to advocate for a permanent SGR fix, and further extending the TC Grandfather provision. CAP members have rallied to support the TC-Grandfather provision for years, and met with lawmakers to share their concerns about ending the program.

“The TC-Grandfather was not instituted to provide a to benefit pathologists, rather it was created to ensure patient care and hospital service in areas that need it most,” said Richard Friedberg, MD, PhD, FCAP, chair of the CAP’s Council on Government and Professional Affairs. “Over the past 10 years, it has helped hospitals that would otherwise not be able to provide laboratory tests and anatomic pathology services to their patients.”

Statline will continue to monitor the negotiations. Look for more details in tomorrow’s edition of Statline.

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