CMS Tells Contractors to Delay Doc Payments for 10 Days Again

John Commins and Joe Cantlupe, March 31, 2010

Left stranded by Congress taking a two-week holiday, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services for the second time this month has told contractors to delay reimbursements to physicians and other healthcare providers for 10 business days to temporarily avoid the 21.2% Medicare pay cuts that go into effect on April 1.

"CMS believes Congress is working to avert the negative update that will take effect April 1. Consequently, CMS has instructed its contractors to hold claims containing services paid under the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule Update (including anesthesia services) for the first 10 business days of April," CMS said in a media release. "This hold will only affect claims with dates of service April 1, 2010, and forward. In addition, the hold should have minimum impact on provider cash flow because, under the current law, clean electronic claims are not paid any sooner than 14 calendar days (29 for paper claims) after the date of receipt. "

On March 2, the Temporary Extension Act of 2010 extended the deadline to the 2010 MPFS through March 31.

As Congress left the Capitol for spring break last weekend, the American Medical Association blasted lawmakers for the "unconscionable" action of not acting on the "doc fix."

Earlier this month, the Senate voted to delay the physician pay cut until Oct. 1. But the House did not take up the action, and as a result, the April 1 deadline stands. Some congressional officials have said it is likely that Congress may decide on the bill retroactively. The House doesn't vote again on legislation until April 13, according to the House calendar.

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