Physicians continue to see their collections, cashflow and emotions whipped around like a rag doll in the mouth of a rottweiler. Congress failed to act before the June 1, 2010 deadline. Once again physicians are "officially" under a new Medicare fee schedule that has an average reduction of over 21%. In reaction, Medicare will once more hold claims for the first 10 business days of the month (for June dates of service).
Physicians are being told that this 10 business day hold will have a minimal impact on their collections. This is not accurate, however, since Medicare is not holding the payments for 10 business days; rather they are holding the processing of the claims for 10 business days. It makes sense to hold the processing since if Congress negates the 21% pay cut then Medicare would need to reprocess the claims. This approach means, however, that at the end of the ten business day hold, Medicare will drop the full amount of held claims into the processing hopper and then the normal time line will begin (in other words, do not expect a big Medicare check on June 15th - which is the 11th business day of June). The bottom line is that unless Congress acts swiftly and thus Medicare begins to swiftly process claims, most physicians will see a big dip in their Medicare collections in June (since the payments typically seen in the last two weeks of a month are from dates of service in the first part of the month).
Here is the full text of the Medicare announcement (from the Trailblazer Website):
"The Continuing Extension Act of 2010, enacted April 15, 2010, extended the zero percent update to the 2010 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (MPFS) through May 31, 2010. CMS believes Congress is working to avert the negative update scheduled to take effect June 1, 2010. To avoid disruption in the delivery of health care services to beneficiaries and payment of claims for physicians, non-physician practitioners and other providers of services paid under the MPFS, CMS has instructed its contractors to hold claims containing services paid under the MPFS (including anesthesia services) for the first 10 business days of June. This hold will only affect MPFS claims with dates of service on or after June 1, 2010. This hold should have minimum impact on provider cash flow because, under the current law, clean electronic claims are not paid any sooner than 14 calendar days (29 for paper claims) after the date of receipt. Be on the alert for more information about the 2010 MPFS update."