In Brief

Congress passed a six-month measure on Dec. 7 to temporarily halt the 10.1 percent sustainable growth rate (SGR) cut to Medicare reimbursements that was scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1. The APA Practice Organization continues to address other Medicare payment reductions affecting psychologists in 2008.

As required by federal law, the SGR determines upcoming reimbursement rates each year. The nation's economic growth, the cost of professional services, and even the number of beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare are all reflected in this complicated formula, which is used to determine final payment amounts for each service.

This action involving the SGR cut came at the end of the legislative session, in the midst of protracted confrontations over spending and President Bush's threat to veto funding Medicare improvements with any cuts in "Medicare Advantage" programs. For these reasons, Hill leaders opted for a temporary patch and postponed consideration of a broader Medicare package until Congress reconvenes in 2008.

Preventing the SGR cut from taking effect is an important victory for the APA Practice Organization and other provider groups that have been advocating hard in the closing hours of this Congress. Psychologists have been fortunate to prevent similar cuts in recent years, but will face them again in the spring of 2008 and in future years unless Congress changes the provider reimbursement formula.

Unfortunately due to the bill's limited and temporary nature, congressional leaders did not include additional Medicare improvements, such as the provisions passed by the House to restore reimbursement cuts to psychologists' and social workers' services that resulted from the 2007 implementation of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services 5-year review rule. However, psychology is well-positioned to fight for these provisions when Congress considers broader Medicare legislation in early 2008.

--APA Practice Organization