House of Representatives pass temporary fix for Medicare services

Senior citizens might not be able to see their physician if payments to Medicare are frozen.

Medicare may be operating on an outdated payment formula, but with the health care enrollment deadline being days away, Congress has to act fast. Otherwise, senior citizens and practitioners will face a 24 percent cut in Medicare payments, the Associated Press reported.

Republicans and Democrats in Congress agree that the flawed system needs to be changed, but finding ways to cover the $140 million price tag has been the problem since information about the imperfect payment formula was created in a budget law.

Instead of bracing for a permanent solution to the equation, members of the House of Representatives decided to pass another temporary solution, one that would increase Medicare spending and provide payments to Medicare physicians. The bill is expected to go through a fast-track in the Senate before the March 31 deadline at midnight.

"A vote `no' today is a vote against seniors," Joe Pitts, Republican Pennsylvania Representative  told AP. "We are not voting for the American Medical Association today."

The AMA feels that the temporary fix will cause Congress to delay putting Medicare's payment formula at the forefront because some services like the mental health grants offers funding for four years.

"If you just keep going with these temporary solutions, you waste time, you waste money, you threaten the access for seniors to their doctors," New Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden added. "And the reality is, the patches, as they are called, they're not free either."

Practitioners are urged to keep a close eye on this vote because if it turns out that the law doesn't pass, Medicare payments will be frozen until a solution is made. Medical claims management organizations that are trying to close as many outstanding accounts as possible may want to look into outsourcing accounts receivable services.