House debates how to pay for SGR fix

Members of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health are working on yet another attempt to reform the unpopular Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula, according to Healthcare Finance News.

Healthcare industry groups have long called for the permanent repeal of the formula, which ties Medicare payment growth to the overall growth of the economy. Last year a bipartisan proposal to permanently repeal the SGR failed, leading to another short-term patch set to expire at the end of March. Committee members held a two-day meeting this week to find ways to offset the cost of another delay, which Subcommittee Chairman Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), the author of last year's patch, put at about $140 billion.

"The question is how to pay for SGR reform in a manner that can pass both Houses of Congress and be signed by the president," said Pitts, according to the article. "Some argue that SGR reform does not need to be paid for. I respectfully disagree."

In his testimony at the hearing, former Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) agreed, saying "If you're an organization representing physicians, for instance, and you push for this SGR replacement reform with no offset, the danger is, and it's a high risk, that nothing's going to happen," according to Medscape.

At a later meeting, the subcommittee heard remarks from American Hospital Association President and CEO Richard Umbdenstock, who suggested offsetting the cost by raising premium rates for higher-income Medicare beneficiaries, merging Medicare parts A and B and requiring a single deductible, according to MedPage Today. Rep. Larry Buschon, M.D. (R-Ind.), a member of the subcommittee, criticized the American Medical Association for failing to offer specific plans to cover the cost, according to the article.

Lieberman and former Congressional Budget Office Director Alice Rivlin joined Umbdenstock in suggesting reforming the current Medi-gap supplemental coverage program, a position shared by the Heritage Foundation, Robert E. Moffit, a senior fellow at Heritage's Center for Health Policy Studies, wrote for the Daily Signal.

To learn more:
- read the HFN article
- here's the Medscape article
- check out the MedPageToday article
- here's the Daily Signal article