AMA: Urge Congress to repeal the SGR now

AMA: Urge Congress to repeal the SGR nowA guest column by the American Medical Association, exclusive to KevinMD.com.

It’s crunch time for our nation’s physicians. After an 11-year battle, we stand closer now than ever before to repealing Medicare’s fatally-flawed sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula.

With the introduction of the SGR Repeal and Medicare Provider Payment Modernization Act of 2014 last month, Congress took a critical step toward reforming the nation’s Medicare program. This joint legislation is the product of months of unprecedented bipartisan, bicameral work to reach a landmark agreement to establish a transition to a new more stable Medicare physician payment policy to better serve America’s senior citizens.

Now, it’s time to get this legislation across the finish line. We must urge Congress to pass this legislation and repeal the SGR once and for all.

A synthesis of three earlier bills, this bipartisan legislation would deliver important improvements over current law, and reflects many AMA recommendations for supporting enhancements in health care delivery. In addition to eliminating the instability and uncertainty generated by the SGR formula, the bill provides for modest increases to physician payments for five years and reduces the risk of payment cuts under existing Medicare pay-for-performance policy by consolidating requirements into a new stream-lined program. Technical support to enable small practices to successfully participate in the modified fee-for-service program and alternative payment models would also be funded.

The legislation not only represents critical payment and delivery reform, but prudent fiscal policy as well. Congress must put an end to the cycle of expensive short-term patches and solve the underlying problem by repealing the SGR formula, it is the fiscally responsible thing to do.

Over the last 12 years, Congress has spent $154 billion on 16 extremely expensive short-term Congressional patches – far more than the cost of permanently reforming the Medicare physician payment system. The cost of each short-term patch has grown significantly over time. In the last three years alone, the cost of stopping the looming cut grew from $14.9 billion in 2011 to $25.2 billion in 2013. The Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) latest cost estimate of $117 billion to eliminate the fiscally foolish SGR is at an all-time low. Congress must act swiftly to reform our Medicare system before this fiscally-advantageous opportunity is gone.

Decisive congressional action is needed now. Urge your lawmakers to seize this opportunity to strengthen Medicare and end the costly pattern of short-term patches.

We need to ensure that every lawmaker in Washington hears from physicians during this crucial period prior to the April 1 deadline. The AMA’s National Day of Action for SGR Repeal this Wednesday, March 5 is the perfect chance to make your views heard, send an urgent email to your members of Congress by visiting fixmedicarenow.org.

We’ve worked too hard and come too far to let this slip away now. It’s time to reform Medicare now and end the threat of massive cuts to physician payments and provide a degree of stability for physician practices.

Ardis D. Hoven is president, American Medical Association

Comments are moderated before they are published. Please read the comment policy.

  • NewMexicoRam

    What does it matter?
    I’ve seen an average of 0.5% increases in Medicare pay per year since the SGR started 14 years ago. And with eliminating the SGR, I will see more 0.5% increases for the next 5 years, plus the addition of pressure to create a non-justified medical home style of practice.
    This is a no-win game.

    • Dr. Drake Ramoray

      You forgot about the 2% cut we took with the sequester. So 4 years to get back where we were before that change.

      • NewMexicoRam

        I’m still correct. It’s a no-win game.

        • Dr. Drake Ramoray

          True. And as always. Thank the AMA

          • NPPCP

            Ardis needs some mentoring from Angela Golden to learn how to get stuff done….. Just sayin’

          • Dr. Drake Ramoray

            The AMA is in the unique position of being inept in policy, membership, and respect in DC. It represents less than 1:5 physicians, works against physicians best interest, and doesn’t even accomplish much or get respect in DC. If it wasn’t for the CPT codes they would be defunct.

            http://www.politico.com//news/stories/0710/39586.html

            It would be like cheering for the Washington Generals minus the entertainment factor but the price of admission is my lifelong education and career.

  • John C. Key MD

    The AMA neither represents nor stands for the best interests of physicians. Only their political fellow-travelers continue to pretend that they do. I loved the AMA of the 60′s, 70′s and 80′s who fought good battles for physicians even though they often lost on such issues as Medicare and prospective payment. Throwing in with the government on the ACA was the last straw.

Most Popular