Seema Verma, Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Photo: Kate Patterson/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Physicians were furious earlier this year when Medicare proposed consolidating most billing codes for routine office visits into a single code next year. Medicare now says it won’t go that far or that quickly, but it will move forward with the general idea.

Why it matters: This affects billions of dollars in physicians' pay.

Driving the news: The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said in a 2,378-page final rule yesterday that instead of collapsing 4 office visit codes into 1, it will collapse 3 codes into 1, and keep the highest-paying code.

  • Doctors would get paid $130 for most new patient visits and $212 for the most complex new patient visits.
  • Doctors would get paid $90 for returning patient visits and $149 for the most complex returning patient visits.
  • Those rates could be higher if doctors attach a special “add-on” code.
  • However, this will not go into effect until 2021 — giving doctors 2 years to ease into — or try to kill — the new rules.
  • When asked whether the agency would consider scrapping the rule before it goes into effect, CMS Administrator Seema Verma told reporters in a conference call: “No.”

The big question: It’s unclear whether the rule will address concerns of fraudulent billing, because the most lucrative code will still exist.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

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  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 12 a.m. ET: 7,148,009 — Total deaths: 205,069 — Total recoveries: 2,794,608 — Total tests: 102,342,416Map.
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  5. Media: Fauci: Some of what Fox News reports about COVID-19 is "outlandish"
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  7. World: More than 1 million people have now died from coronavirus — India the second country after U.S. to hit 6 million cases.

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