Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Medicare Panel Backs 1.1% Physician Fee Increase for 2009

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Medicare Panel Backs 1.1% Physician Fee Increase for 2009

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission has voted to recommend that Congress increase Medicare physician fees by 1.1% in 2009.

The recommendation will be included in MedPAC's final report to Congress next month but was discussed and voted on at a panel meeting in January.

The panel believes that physician fees should not be cut, said MedPAC chairman Glenn M. Hackbarth. "That's a very important message for us to convey to Congress." Before the vote, Mr. Hackbarth said the commission had struggled each year to come up with the right numbers. "We try to zero in on the most appropriate update," he said, adding that cost reports, physicians' access to capital, and beneficiaries' access to physician services all go into that calculation.

MedPAC staff member John Richardson told commissioners that it appears that most physicians continue to accept new Medicare patients, but there has been an increase in beneficiaries who said they had trouble finding a new primary care physician, according to a MedPAC survey.

Medicare fees also are staying fairly steady as a percentage of private insurance fees, Mr. Richardson said. In 2005, Medicare paid 83% of what private insurers did, and in 2006, that had slipped slightly to 81%.

In December, Congress passed and the president signed a last-minute fix to the 2008 fee schedule, granting a 6-month, 0.5% increase for 2008. The fee increase, which included incentives for rural physicians, will cost about $3. …

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