Congress Passes “Doc Fix” Bill, Delays Shift to ICD-10

This week, Congress passed what’s known as a “doc fix” bill, delaying not only cuts to Medicare physician payments, but also pushes back the implementation of ICD-10 coding system for one year. 

The temporary “fix” delays a 24% reduction in Medicare physician reimbursement until October 2015, which initially would have taken effect March 31 as outlined by the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR)—a program used by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to curb spending on physician services.

Congress’ passing of the bill, introduced in the House of Representatives as H.R. 4302—which subsequently passed in the Senate by a vote of 64-35—also delays the transition to the medical coding system ICD-10. 

While the passing of the bill gives providers more time to prepare for the coding change, home health industry groups, such as the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC), expressed relief that the SGR fix didn’t include additional provisions that would cut home health care.

“NAHC is pleased that this most recent SGR patch does not include any offsets in the form of cuts or copayments from the home health or hospice Medicare benefits,” the organization said in a recent NAHC Report

The SGR bill did not, however, include a NAHC-drafted amendment that would have provided relief from CMS’ home health rebasing rule Final Rule, which still intends to reduce Medicare reimbursements paid to home health agencies by an aggregate amount of 14% by 2017—or 3.5% each year until then—NAHC notes.

Written by Jason Oliva