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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

Retail stock traders power stunning comeback after deep selloff

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

Stocks staged a Patrick Mahomes-esque comeback Monday, after plunging for the first few hours of trading.

Why it matters: The remarkable recovery suggests that retail traders who upended markets over the last year — most notably during the GameStop bonanza that occurred almost exactly a year ago — continue to be powerful influence in the markets.

America can't quit polarizing politicians

Expand chart
Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

New data finds that the nation's most polarizing politicians are often the ones that garner the most attention online.

Why it matters: Online engagement helps politicians build a bigger national profile and more fundraising power, incentivizing them be more outrageous, more polarizing and more divisive.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
59 mins ago - Science

It's time to take reproduction in space seriously

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Before humans can settle off-Earth, scientists need to figure out how — or even whether — people can reproduce in space.

Why it matters: Powerful figures in the space industry like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have dreams of a future where millions of people live in space, which would naturally require a self-sustaining population of humans somewhere other than Earth.