Medicare will raise the amount it reimburses physicians for their fees by an average of 7.7 percent on Jan. 1, with surgeons in line for the biggest increases, the government announced Monday.
The increases, which are larger than the administration of President Bill Clinton wanted, will mean an extra $2.2 billion for physicians who treat the nation's 36 million elderly or disabled Medicare beneficiaries.
Medicare is raising its fee reimbursements 12.2 percent for surgical services, 7.9 percent for primary care services and 5.2 percent for other nonsurgical services.
The surgeons got the heftiest increase because they performed fewer surgeries in 1993 than a target figure set by the government.
"Physicians are getting a reward for keeping spending down," said Bob Doherty, vice president for governmental affairs of the American Society of Internal Medicine. "It's like a productivity bonus."
The fee increases would have been even higher had Congress not ordered a 2.7 percentage point reduction in the increases for everything but primary care as part of the 1993 deficit-reduction act. That measure cut $56 billion from Medicare payments to physicians, hospitals and other providers over five years.
Health Secretary Donna E. Shalala asked Congress last May 20 to limit the 1995 fee increase to 6. …