SGR repeal moves forward

A bill that would replace Medicare's sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula with a system that rewards providers for high-quality care passed an important House committee on Wednesday, the Washington Times reported.

The Medicare Patient Access and Quality Improvement Act unanimously passed the Energy and Commerce Committee and will now head to the full chamber, the article noted.

Under the bill, Medicare physician reimbursements would grow 0.5 percent a year between 2014 and 2018 before payments are based on quality-measure performance under the new Update Incentive Program, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

The full committee approval follows the bill's passage in the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee last Tuesday. 

Ranking members of the committee called the vote an important milestone to ensuring high-quality care and fair payment to doctors. "This legislation is long overdue. Since its passage in 1997, SGR has bred uncertainty and frustration," Committee Chairman Fred Upton said in his opening statement.

The full committee's vote to replace the SGR likely will receive physician support, as physician groups generally praised the subcommittee's approval. But docs still have concerns about the bill, such as a lack of specificity about which organization will determine bonuses and penalties, a lack of extra pay directed toward primary care providers and how lawmakers will pay for the $139 billion SGR repeal, FiercePracticeManagement previously reported.

Despite such concerns, the bill's author, Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas), who serves as vice chair of the subcommittee, said he's confident the legislation will become law.

To learn more:
- here's the bill (.pdf)
- read the Washington Times article
- here's Burgess' statement
- check out Upton's opening statement (.pdf)