see decrease in Medicare payments in 2003
Associated Press, December 20, 2002
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Physicians will see a smaller than expected cut in Medicare
payments next year, but Congress must act to prevent further
erosion in doctor payments, Medicare's administrator said
Under figures released by the federal Centers for Medicare and
Medicaid, doctors will see a 4.4 percent decrease in Medicare
payments, smaller than the 5.1 percent cut that had been
Physician payments are determined by a formula that relies on
the state of the economy, which is now struggling.
Tom Scully, Medicare administrator, said the agency did what
it could to refine the methodology slightly to ease the pain
of the reduction. But he said any further action must come
from Capitol Hill.
"CMS has done everything it can to shore up physician payments
for 2003, but only Congress has the authority to fix the
formula," Scully said.
Doctors have lobbied Congress to do just that, and many
physicians have begun refusing to take on new Medicare
patients, saying they cannot afford to bear the costs.
Physicians have already taken a 5.4 percent cut for 2002 and
are estimated to lose about $11 billion over the next three
years, according to the American Medical Association.
"We do hope something can be done to stem this tide of cuts,"
said Dr. Yank Coble, AMA president.
Lawmakers on both sides have said they want to address the
doctor payment problem, but Congress was unable to reach
agreement before adjourning for the year.
The Medicare agency is increasing payment for some
immunizations, including flu shots. The cost will go from
$3.98 to $7.26, an amount the government said more
appropriately reflects the resources used to administer flu
The payment changes are being published in the Dec. 31 Federal
Register but do not take effect until March 1, 2003.