December 15, 2006
In the early hours of December 8th, Congress passed the Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006. Included in the bill are several Medicare provisions, one of which prevents the 5% cut in 2007 Medicare physician payment rates due to the sustainable growth rate (SGR) by freezing the Medicare conversion factor at its 2006 level. The SNM worked hard with the AMA and other specialty groups to ensure that Congress pass legislation prior to the end of the year that would eliminate the 5% cut and is extremely pleased Congress took action.
Also included in the bill is a new physician quality reporting program. The Medicare Physician Quality Reporting Program for 2007 establishes a reporting program using physician voluntary reporting program (PVRP) quality measures for July 1, 2007 through December 31, 2007. A bonus payment of 1.5% will be paid to physicians who report on at least three PVRP measures. The SNM is working with the AMA and CMS to learn more about the program.
Unfortunately, Congress did not include any provisions in the bill that would halt or delay the imaging cuts scheduled to go into affect January 1, 2007 as a result of the 2005 Deficit Reduction Act (DRA). Despite efforts made by the SNM, other specialty societies, patient advocacy groups, and the Access to Medical Imaging Coalition (AMIC), Congress chose not to make adjustments to the DRA prior to adjourning. The SNM, AMIC, and other organizations are committed, however, to working with the 110th Congress on the issue when they begin work in January 2007.