Medicare to stop payments for nine days

Sunday, August 27, 2006

WASHINGTON - Medicare will hold nine days' worth of payments to physicians and providers in September to shift $5.2 billion in expenses to next year's budget.

The one-time hold will take place Sept. 22 through Sept. 30, the last nine days of the federal fiscal cycle. Congress, in its Deficit Reduction Act of 2006, ordered the hold.

Medicare will pay physicians and providers Oct. 2. No interest will be accrued and no late penalties will be paid.

"The alternative was to cut reimbursement to providers this year," a Senate Finance Committee spokeswoman told The Associated Press. "With this payment shift, we avoid that cut."

Congress has approved a payment hold at least twice before, in the early 1980s, but in one of those cases, the hold was repealed before it could take place, the spokeswoman added.

A Medicare official told the AP he has heard no complaints.

The hold applies to claims subject to payment. It does not apply to full denials, no-pay claims and other non-claim payments, such as periodic interim payments, home health requests for anticipated payments and cost report settlements.