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A doctor treats a patient during a clinic visit. Photo: Kirk McKoy/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Medicare will pay the same amount for routine doctor visits regardless of whether they happen in hospital outpatient departments or physicians' offices. It formally signed off on the controversial policy in a new regulation today.

Yes, but: The policy will be phased in over 2 years, which may give hospitals and doctors time to quash it or get it scaled back. And although this so-called "site-neutral" policy represents a major shift in how hospitals get paid, the relatively narrow rule will affects less than 1% of all Medicare outpatient spending.

Between the lines: The federal government has studied this issue for years, even before the Obama administration. Officials decided they were fed up with paying more for routine checkups in hospital-owned clinics, when the same services can be done cheaper elsewhere.

  • "In 2012, Medicare was paying approximately 80% more for a 15-minute office visit in a hospital outpatient department than in a freestanding physician office," the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services wrote in its final rule.
  • CMS also based its decision on a 2015 Government Accountability Office report, which called for this payment reform after finding hospitals were buying doctors' practices and increasing routine office visits due to the higher payment rates.

The American Hospital Association and other hospital lobbying groups have already said they intend "to promptly bring a court challenge to the new rule's site-neutral provisions."

Go deeper

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Rahm Emanuel floated for Transportation secretary

Rahm Emanuel. Photo: Joshua Lott for The Washington Post via Getty Images

President-elect Biden is strongly considering Rahm Emanuel to run the Department of Transportation, weighing the former Chicago mayor’s experience on infrastructure spending against concerns from progressives over his policing record.

Why it matters: The DOT could effectively become the new Commerce Department, as infrastructure spending, smart cities construction and the rollout of drone-delivery programs take on increasing economic weight.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden turns to experienced hands for White House economic team

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Joe Biden plans to announce Cecilia Rouse and Brian Deese as part of his economic team and Neera Tanden to head the Office of Management and Budget, sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: These are experienced hands. Unveiling a diverse group of advisers also may draw attention away from a selection of Deese to run the National Economic Council. Some progressives have criticized his work at BlackRock, the world's largest asset management firm.

Biden taps former Obama communications director for press secretary

Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

Jen Psaki, who previously served as Obama's communications director, will serve as President-elect Joe Biden's press secretary, the transition team announced Sunday.

The big picture: All of the top aides in Biden's communication staff will be women, per the Washington Post, which first reported Psaki's appointment.