2009 Rates extended until March 31
Medicare Rate Remedy Makes Limited Progress
Senate gridlock was halted just long enough this week to pass a brief extension of a highly troublesome Medicare provision that sets Part B payment rates for clinical social workers and all independent Medicare outpatient providers. The so-called Medicare “physician fee cut” for all Part B providers was stopped by a short-term package of program extensions that President Obama signed into law on Tuesday, March 2. The legislation was delayed by several days in the Senate due to an informal filibuster conducted by Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky). The Medicare provision was included in a new law providing tax breaks to employers for job creation and extensions of key benefits for the unemployed. Because of congressional failure to pass the Medicare payment extension by February 28, cuts of 21 percent hit all claims on payment earlier this week.
The new law, which is retroactive to claims from March 1, allows payments to be made at last year’s level through March 31, 2010. Congress is working now on yet another extension of the physician payment cap through September 30 of this year. It is this next Medicare extender bill that NASW has secured a provision addressing the separate five-percent cut that hit psychotherapy rates on the first of this year. This new Senate bill (H.R. 4213), currently being debated on the Senate floor, includes CSW’s psychotherapy rate restoration and a host of unrelated Medicare provisions, tax cut extenders and job creation measures. For background on the complex issues involving clinical social fees, see NASW’s last Health Care Reform Roundup here.