Medicare increases annual primary care update 5%

Medicare payments for primary care services will receive a 5% increase over 1996 payments, starting in January 1997.

Surgeons will see a 1.6% decrease in payments, and all other remaining services — those that are neither primary care nor surgical — will decrease by 1.8%. Overall, the changes announced by HHS will result in an average fee decrease of 0.3%.

Details on the annual regulation for the resource-based relative value scale, which governs Medicare fee-for-service payments, are in the Nov. 22, 1996, Federal Register.

The regulation also sets the 1997 spending targets for physician services, which are:

• 4.5% increase in spending for primary care services;

• 3.7% decrease for surgical services;

• 0.5% decrease for all other physician services.

HCFA officials conducted a comprehensive review of CPT-4 codes to make adjustments for 1997. The new expenditure targets represent the "default" targets set by prior regulation because Congress did not intercede in 1996.

Following are names and telephone numbers of sources quoted in this issue:

Heart & Vascular Institute of Texas, San Antonio; Mark Mehlen, administrator. Telephone: (210) 804-6000.

Holland & Knight, Washington, DC; Christopher A. Myers, JD. Telephone: (202) 955-3000.

McDermott, Will, & Emery, Washington, DC; Guy Collier, JD. Telephone: (202) 778-8016.

Neuromedical Systems, Suffern, NY; Laurie Mango, MD, medical director. Telephone: (800) 727-6384.

Physician Payment Review Commission, Washington, DC; Gail R. Wilensky, PhD, chair. Telephone: (202) 653-7220.

Texas Medical Association, Austin; David Marcus, PhD, director of health care financing. Telephone: (800) 880-1300.

Women’s Ob-Gyn, Saginaw, MI; James A. Matthews, business manager. Telephone: (517) 792-7020.