At Manage My Practice we like to keep our posts informative and actionable – and not political. I’ve tried to provide the facts about the reforms, and how they could affect your patients and staff in an unbiased and professional manner – exactly how you would present them as an administrator. I hope you find it useful. – Abe
The process of passing and implementing a law is a long and winding road, but President Obama’s Healthcare Reforms cleared a significant hurdle on Thursday when the Supreme Court upheld most of the law as constitutional against challenges from many of the states as well as business organizations. You have probably been getting a lot of questions from employees, patients, friends and relatives, and even your providers and colleagues, and they all basically boil down to this: How does the law affect me?
January is a tough time for independent medical practices for several reasons:
In private practices, the physicians typically don’t carry over any cash from year to year, so the practice starts in January from a cash position of zero.
Most deductibles begin in January – if practices don’t collect deductibles at time of service, they find themselves hurting because their revenue goes way down.
The Medicare debacle every year creates improper (lower) reimbursement as Congress struggles to the last possible minute over physician payments. (Here’s a simple yet helpful exercise for Congress. Congress, close your eyes and think of your favorite Medicare-age person. Is it you, your wife, your mother, your father, your neighbor or best friend? Now think of that person not being able to see a doctor when they need to because all doctors have opted out of Medicare and the only place they can get care is the local Emergency Room. It is a very ugly picture. What other profession is MADE to accept payment that is less than it costs to provide? Who do you love, Congress, who won’t be able to get care?)
Many annual maintenance contracts come due in January
Deals on large purchases are good (think EMRs) as vendors try to book revenue in the current year. Practices tend to make commitments to purchases now that will have to be paid for in the new year
I haven’t written much about the impending 29% Medicare physician payment cut. This threatened cut has happened every year for the past 10 years. Every year at the last second, Washington is convinced that if cuts take place, physicians really will stop seeing Medicare patients and they halt the cut.
It’s not a bluff. Physicians can’t afford to see Medicare patients, TriCare (ex-military) patients and disabled patients with Medicare benefits now, and they will drop out by the tens of thousands if they get paid any less. Any businessperson worth their salt will tell you that when revenue does not exceed expenses, you do not have a sustainable business model. Physician have cut expenses to the bone, taken deep cuts in their salaries and ultimately have sold their practices when they just can’t make it anymore.
But never mind the doctor, what about the patients? What happens to them when physicians stop seeing Medicare patients? Texas Medical Associationhas made an outstanding video that explains it in language we can all understand.
Other organizations that are working to eliminate physician reimbursement being tied to the SGR are MGMA and the AMA.
As we finish off another month here at MMP, we wanted to go back over some of our most popular posts from the month and get ready for another busy, productive, and meaningful month. Presenting, The Best of Manage My Practice, October 2011!
And finally, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of he department of Health and Human services has released its 2012 Work Plan for areas it will concentrate on investigating. Better safe than sorry! Mary Pat goes over the highlights here.
We’ve started this monthly wrap-up to make sure you don’t miss any of the great stuff we post throughout the month on Manage My Practice, but we also want to hear from you! What were your favorite posts and discussions this month? Did we skip over your favorite from October? Let us know in the comments!
CMS just announced the new numbers for premiums and deductibles for 2012. Now is the ideal time to think about Medicare deductibles and what your policy is on collecting deductibles at time of service.
If you’ve been hesitant to collect deductibles, ask yourself if you can handle the loss or delay of payment of $140 per Medicare patient. Most practices can’t. If you are thinking about collecting deductibles and other front-end collection techniques, my book “The Smart Manager’s Guide to Collecting at Checkout” is your guide to making it happen for your healthcare group. Click here to read more.
MEDICARE PART B (covers a portion of the cost of physicians’ services, outpatient hospital services, certain home health services, durable medical equipment, and other items)
In 2012, the Part B deductible will be $140, a decrease of $22 from 2011.
The standard Medicare Part B monthly premium will be $99.90 in 2012, a $15.50 decrease over the 2011 premium of $115.40.
The standard premium is set to cover one-fourth of the average cost of Part B services incurred by beneficiaries aged 65 and over, plus a contingency margin. The contingency margin is an amount to ensure that Part B has sufficient assets and income to (i) cover Part B expenditures during the year, (ii) cover incurred-but-unpaid claims costs at the end of the year, (iii) provide for possible variation between actual and projected costs, and (iv) amortize any surplus assets. Most of the remaining Part B costs are financed by Federal general revenues. (In 2012, about $2.9 billion in Part B expenditures will be financed by the fees on manufacturers and importers of brand-name prescription drugs under the Affordable Care Act.)
The largest factor affecting the contingency margin for 2012 is the current law formula for physician fees, which will result in a payment reduction of about 29 percent in 2012. For each year from 2003 through 2011, Congress has acted to prevent smaller physician fee reductions from occurring. The 2012 reduction is almost certain to be overridden by legislation enacted after Part B financing has been set for 2012. In recognition of the strong possibility of increases in Part B expenditures that would result from similar legislation to override the decrease in physician fees in 2012, it is appropriate to maintain a significantly larger Part B contingency reserve than would otherwise be necessary. The asset level projected for the end of 2012 is adequate to accommodate this contingenIn 2012, Social Security monthly payments to enrollees will increase by 3.6 percent. The dollar increase in benefit checks is expected to be large enough on average to cover the increase in the Part B premium of $3.50 that most beneficiaries will experience. For those who were paying the standard premium of $115.40, their benefits checks will only increase.