On December 26th, President Barack Obama signed into law H.J. Res. 59, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, which provides a two-year spending outline for the federal government.  Included within the budget deal is a 0.5 percent increase in Medicare payments to physicians from January 1st through March 31st.  Without enactment of this legislation, Medicare reimbursement rates to physicians would have been cut by 23.7 percent effective January 1st.

This temporary fix will provide the government with more time to work on a long-term solution to the Medicare sustainable growth rate (“SGR”) formula problem.  Bills in both branches of Congress are aimed to freeze or marginally increase Medicare payments to physicians over the next five years and replace the SGR formula with a reimbursement system that is linked to quality of care.  These bills have been approved by the House Ways and Means Committee, the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and the Senate Finance Committee, but additional work is needed to resolve differences in the bills.

The budget act also extends Medicare sequestration cuts for two years, establishes new criteria for Long-Term Care Hospital (“LTCH”) payments, and restructures planned reductions to disproportionate share hospital (“DSH”) payments, among others.  Visit the American Optometric Association for more information.