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Congress Approves Measure to Avert Massive Medicare Pay Cut

February 17, 2012

Facing increased pressure from AOA and other physician organizations, U.S. House and Senate leaders came together earlier today to approve yet another measure to prevent enactment of a massive cut to Medicare payments made to optometrists and other Medicare physicians.

Part of a larger deal aimed at continuing a payroll tax break for most workers and extending unemployment insurance for many jobless Americans, the compromise bill now heads to the White House for President Obama’s signature.

Without today’s bipartisan action, Medicare physician reimbursement rates were scheduled to be cut by more than 27 percent starting Mar. 1. As a result of this latest deal, under Medicare’s sustainable growth rate formula (SGR), a nearly 30 percent cut is now scheduled for Jan. 1, 2013.

While not fully financed, some of the bill’s price tag was paid-for by requiring new federal workers to contribute more to the federal retirement program. The compromise plan also called for a $5 billion reduction in the Affordable Care Act’s $15 billion prevention fund.

With immediate cuts averted, optometrists are now on track to see even higher Medicare payments in 2012. While most physicians will continue to receive 2011 rates through 2012, many ODs will see a roughly two percent increase in reimbursements in 2012, worth $20 million this year alone.

A direct result of AOA’s advocacy in the nation’s capital, Medicare is now placing a higher relative value on eye care services and is boosting pay. In fact, the added reimbursement could mean that optometry will pass $1 billion in Medicare annual allowed charges for physician services.

While AOA volunteers and staff will continue working closely with House and Senate leaders in the coming months to find a lasting and equitable solution to Medicare’s flawed payment formula, even more ODs and students are being urged to join the fight for patients and the profession.

Hundreds of AOA doctors and students will be on Capitol Hill to address Medicare pay and other priorities for the profession during the AOA’s Super Advocacy Meetings in Washington, D.C., April 1-3 (AOA Congressional Advocacy Conference and AOA State Government and Third Party National Conference).

For information on the upcoming AOA Super Advocacy Meetings or to learn about becoming more involved in federal advocacy, please contact the AOA Washington office at 800-365-2219 or ImpactWasingtonDC@aoa.org.

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