BALTIMORE, Nov. 6 (UPI) -- U.S. government health officials issued a final rule to increase payments to primary care physicians who treat Medicare patients next year.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, also said there is a new policy to pay a patient's physician or practitioner to coordinate the patient's care in the 30 days following a hospital or skilled nursing facility stay.
"Recognizing the work of community physicians and practitioners in treating a patient following discharge from a hospital or nursing facility will ensure better continuity of care for these patients and help reduce patient readmissions," a statement by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said.
"The changes in care coordination payment and other changes in the rule are expected to increase payment to family practitioners by 7 percent -- and other primary care practitioners between 3 percent and 5 percent -- if Congress averts the statutorily required reduction in Medicare's physician fee schedule."
The final rule also included a required 26.5 percent across-the-board reduction to Medicare payment rates for more than 1 million physicians and non-physician practitioners under the Balanced Budget Act of 1997's sustainable growth rate methodology.
However, Congress has overridden the required reduction every year since 2003, health officials said.
"The Obama administration is committed to fixing the sustainable growth rate update methodology and ensuring these payment cuts do not take effect," officials of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said. "Predictable, fiscally responsible physician payments are essential for Medicare to sustain quality and lower healthcare costs over the long-term."