Congress, CMS and Healthcare Today

By David Wiener posted 10-11-2012 08:56


Dear ASE members,

Congress is in recess until after the election, the lame duck session is expected to be a very busy period. Congress must tackle sequestration, the expiring Bush tax cuts, unemployment insurance, payroll taxes and the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR). Even after the elections a sweeping deficit deal seems unlike. Speaker John Boehner has been quoted as saying “You know, and frankly, I’m not sure it’s the right thing to do — have a lot of retiring members and defeated members voting on really big bills. Eh, probably not the appropriate way to handle the lame duck.” Conventional wisdom says that the most likely scenario would be a short-term agreement and possible a framework for a longer-term solution.

The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released a preliminary outline of sequestration cuts that are scheduled to begin January 2013 as required by Budget Control Act (BCA). These are mandated by the BCA and consist of across the board cuts, evenly split between defense and non-defense spending, and spread over nine years.  If sequestration is allowed to take place, some $109.3 billion will be cut each year from FY 2013 through FY 2021, for a total of $984 billion.  Specifically for healthcare, the sequestration provision would result in a 2 percent reduction to Medicare payments; while the FDA is anticipating a $318 million cut, the NIH is expected to face a $2.5 billion reduction, and the CDC is scheduled for a $490 million cut. Additionally, if not addressed, SGR could result in Medicare physician payment rates being reduced by 27 percent.

 On the regulatory side  Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Fiscal Year released their Medicare Physician Fee Schedule Proposed Rule that calls for an expansion of multiple procedure payment reduction (MPPR) policy that would imposes a 25-percent payment reduction on the technical component (TC) for numerous cardiology codes.

ASE will continue to monitor these potential cuts and update you on any developments. Please consider reaching out to your congressional representatives, especially in the election season when they are apt to be listening, to help ensure that echocardiography has a voice in your community.  For help in coordinating your efforts feel free to contact Irene Butler,