Medicare panel’s payment recommendations pit hospitals against doctors

By Julian Pecquet – 01/16/12 12:04 PM ET

Hospitals and other healthcare providers are worried that a Medicare panel has painted a target on their backs just as lawmakers return to Capitol Hill to prevent a payment cut to physicians.

The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC), which advises Congress on Medicare payments, voted last week to recommend cuts to hospital outpatient departments that could save the government between $1 billion and $5 billion over the next five years. The recommendations come as lawmakers seek to stave off a nearly 30 percent cut to physician payments scheduled to kick in March 1; postponing the cuts costs about $30 billion per year, and lawmakers say they’re hoping for a two-year “doc fix” at least.  More…