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MedPAC Calls for Pay Raise for Doctors, Hospitals

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, March 16, 2011

Physicians and other health professionals should receive a 1% pay boost for services provided to Medicare beneficiaries in 2012, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission said in its latest annual list of "update" reimbursement recommendations.

"While our analysis finds that access to physician and other health professional services is good nationally, a small share of the Medicare population continues to report problems finding a new primary care physician – an essential component to a well-functioning delivery system," the commission said in its executive summary.

"In addition, a recent study found that in 2007, hourly compensation rates for some specialties were more than double the rate for primary care," and the commission has recommended enhancements to primary care practitioners, which was adopted by Congress.

Regarding course of action on the pending Sustainable Growth Rate formula, which if not repealed would cut physician pay by 29.5% starting Jan. 1, the commission said "fee cuts of that magnitude would be detrimental to beneficiary access to care." Legislative overrides prohibited those cuts from taking effect, but "are merely temporarily, leading to mounting frustration among physicians, other health professional and their patients and to a desire for a long-term remedy."

Asked for comment, the American Medical Association president Cecil B. Wilson, MD, said his group "concurs with MedPAC's conclusion that the nearly 30 percent cut built into Medicare's physician payment system for 2012 would jeopardize access to physician services for many patients and should be replaced with a positive update to help offset increases in practice costs.  

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