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Congress passes 'fiscal cliff' deal, physician fix

January 2, 2013

Congress yesterday passed legislation to avert parts of the so-called "fiscal cliff," most notably the across-the-board tax increases that were set to take effect Jan. 1. The bill also includes a 12-month Medicare physician payment fix, which will be paid for in part by implementing a documentation and coding offset and extending current Medicaid disproportionate share hospital reductions for an additional year, among other reductions. Physicians' Medicare payments were scheduled to decrease by nearly 27%. In addition, the bill extends a number of health care provisions, including ambulance add-on payments; the low-volume adjustment add-on; and the Medicare-dependent hospital program. The bill also delays by two months the sequester contained in the Budget Control Act of 2011, including the 2% Medicare sequester. "While fixing the physician payment formula is essential, it should not be done by jeopardizing hospitals' ability to care for seniors and their communities," said AHA President and CEO Rich Umbdenstock. "That's why we are very disappointed at the approach taken in this measure. Hospitals are working to provide high-quality, innovative and effective care to seniors in their communities. Additional payment reductions will make it harder for patients to access the care they need and depend on."