There's a light at the end of the SGR tunnel. Or is it a freight train? You can make the difference and help ensure that Congress permanently repeals Medicare's Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula now.
The SGR Repeal and Medicare Provider Payment Modernization Act of 2014 (HR 4015/S. 2000) was introduced in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Its author is U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, MD (R-Texas). It features the handiwork of Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas). And it has the support of key congressional leaders from both parties and in both chambers.
"We may not get this opportunity again," said TMA President Stephen L. Brotherton, MD. "Take action now to support permanent SGR repeal."
The three key congressional committees involved have come to this bipartisan, bicameral agreement in advance of the March 31 deadline when physicians' Medicare payments will be cut by 24.1 percent. It incorporates many Texas Medical Association-supported recommendations to reform the physician payment system and improve care for Texas seniors, military families, and people with disabilities. This legislation would provide physicians with positive annual payment updates of 0.5 percent for five years. (While these updates won't keep up with physicians' cost of providing health care to Medicare patients, the cumulative 2.5-percent update is larger than all of the increases Congress has provided in the past 12 years, combined.) It also includes important medical liability reform protections and significant financing and tools to help us adopt new payment and delivery models.
"Congress is now closer than it ever has been to enacting fiscally prudent legislation that would permanently repeal the SGR," Dr. Brotherton said. "That will happen only if Washington hears our loud voice. Please contact U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz and your U.S. representative today."
Physicians can send an email through TMA's Grassroots Action Center, and call lawmakers via the American Medical Association's Physicians Grassroots Network hotline at (800) 833-6354.
Here are the key points to stress:
- For at least 12 years, members of Congress have told us how serious they are about reforming the Medicare physician payment system. Now that a bipartisan, bicameral policy has been developed, it is time to stop talking about the problem and seize the opportunity to solve it.
- Congress must vote as soon as possible in support of a fix that will permanently repeal the flawed Medicare SGR formula.
- Congress must avoid continuing the fiscally irresponsible cycle of short-term patches that contribute to the Medicare program's instability and do nothing to solve the underlying problem.
- Congress must ensure that practicing physicians lead the development of the alternative payment models and quality incentive programs established in this bill.
"Please call or write today," Dr. Brotherton said. "We may not get this opportunity again."
Action, Feb. 18, 2014