Docs unhappy with yet another SGR patch

Physicians are unhappy with the Senate's decision to approve yet another one-year delay to the sustainable growth rate (SGR)--the 17th patch since Congress implemented the payment formula in 1995--instead of a permanent repeal.

The bill, which replaces an estimated 24 percent cut in Medicare reimbursement rates for physicians with one that offers a 0.5 percent increase, now awaits President Barack Obama's signature.

The American Medical Association (AMA) said in a statement that it was "deeply disappointed" by the vote.

"This bill perpetuates an environment of uncertainty for physicians, making it harder for them to implement new innovative systems to better coordinate care and improve quality of care for patients," AMA President Ardis Dee Hoven, M.D., said in the statement.

The trade group will continue its efforts to secure a permanent SGR repeal this year, Hoven said. The AMA thought Congress would finally replace the payment formula after lawmakers last month announced a bipartisan, bicameral agreement to repeal SGR.

But the bill that passed Monday is just a temporary fix. It also lumped in other controversial measures, such as a one-year ICD-10 implementation delay, changes to two-midnight rule compliance and postponing recovery audits of medically unnecessary claims.

The ICD-10 delay was a blow to several industry trade groups, including the American Health Information Management Association, which said in a statement that it was "deeply disappointed" and would seek immediate clarification on the exact length of the delay, according to FierceHealthIT. Based on Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services estimates, a one-year delay will cost between $1 billion to $6.6 billion, the group said.

"As demands for quality healthcare data continue to increase, this delay will add an additional significant hurdle for the healthcare system to fill these important HIM positions," AHIMA CEO Lynne Thomas Gordon said, according to the FierceHealthIT story.

"It is truly unfortunate that Congress chose to embed language about delaying ICD-10 into legislation intended to address the need for an SGR fix in their effort to temporarily address the long outstanding and critically important physician payment issues."

Meanwhile, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) said in a statement that it will work to provide its stakeholders with "education, resource and tools to help them make the conversion to ICD-10 in the most effective and efficient way."

To learn more:
- here's the AMA statement
- read the AHIMA response
- check out the HIMSS statement

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