Key dates in practice expense changes

It’s been over a year since HCFA began looking at revisions to the way physicians are reimbursed for Part B Medicare services, and the task still isn’t finished. Listed below are the steps included in moving the practice expense changes from a political debate to a reality.

1. Beginning January 1998, the so-called practice expense "down payment" goes into effect. Essentially, the practice expense RVUs for all services except those provided at least 75% percent of the time in an office setting will be reduced to 110% of the work RVUs. The money will be used to fund an increase in the practice expense RVUs for office visit codes, which will be increased uniformly as determined by the secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS).

2. On or before Feb. 5, 1998 (six months after enactment of the balanced budget agreement), the General Accounting Office must submit a report to Congress on the practice expense rule.

3. On or before March 1, 1998, HHS is required to develop new resource-based RVUs and must submit a report to Congress.

4. On or before May 1, 1998, HHS must publish a proposed rule with a 90-day comment period.

5. Beginning Jan. 1, 1999, the new, possibly revised, resource-based methodologies are phased in (25% in 1999, 50% in 2000, 75% in 2001, and 100% in 2002).