Last night, by voice vote, the Senate passed the "Physician Payment and Therapy Relief Act of 2010," which provides a 30-day halt to the 23% reduction in Medicare reimbursement levels that was scheduled to take effect on December 1. The House of Representatives is expected to act on this legislation when they return after Thanksgiving.
In order to off-set the cost of legislation, lawmakers used the recently announced therapy multiple procedure payment reduction (MPPR) policy. As part of the bill, the 25% MPPR practice expense reduction announced in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (MPFS) final rule would be replaced with a 20% MPPR reduction. This legislative maneuvering turned the projected regulatory savings into a legislative cost off-set for extending the current Medicare fee schedule rates. Although the legislative action reduces the impact of the MPPR on therapy services, it would codify the CMS regulations into law.
Though MPPR will primarily affect physical therapists and occupational therapists, eight speech-language procedures are designated as applicable to MPPR, therefore ASHA joined other stakeholder groups in opposing this ill-conceived policy. Additional information on the MPPR can be found in ASHA's analysis of the MPFS at the 2011 Medicare Fee Schedule for Speech-Language Pathologists [PDF].
Senate Finance Chair Max Baucus (D-MT) and Ranking Member Charles Grassley (R-IA) also pledged to work together during the lame duck session to develop a year-long Medicare package that would include the fee schedule and extension of the therapy cap exceptions process.
ASHA will continue to monitor action on the legislation and will notify members regarding the outcome of the House vote. For additional information, contact Ingrida Lusis, ASHA's Director of Federal and Political Advocacy at firstname.lastname@example.org.