Obama signs SGR repeal bill as medical groups react to CMS warning

President Barack Obama made it official and permanently repealed the sustainable growth rate formula by signing a bill passed by the Senate earlier in the week, the Associated Press reports.

Obama, who last month pledged support for the "doc fix" legislation, praised the bipartisan negotiations by Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) that led to the agreement. The legislation, he said, will help improve physicians' quality of care "because it starts encouraging payments based on quality, not the number of tests that are provided or the number of procedures that are applied but whether or not people actually start feeling better … it encourages us to continue to make the system better without denying service."

Obama's signature averted a 21 percent cut in Medicare payments set to take effect this month. Although some providers may still be subject to reduced rates, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services yesterday said it made payments at full rates ahead of Obama signing the bill, according to the AP. The agency will reprocess any lower-level claims to ensure providers receive full payment. 

Fiscal conservatives have criticized the final bill, arguing too much of the $214 billion associated with the legislation is not paid for and will add to the federal deficit, and CMS this week argued its provisions don't go far enough.

The American Medical Association, however, dismissed these concerns, with AMA President Robert Wah, M.D., calling the CMS report "illogical, flawed and dangerous for patient access to quality healthcare," according to Medscape. And while Robert Wergin, M.D., president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, said the bill is not ideal, it serves a valuable purpose in stabilizing Medicare and physicians' revenue streams, which means doctors won't have to turn away Medicare patients while legislators and officials devise a longer-term solution.

To learn more:
- here's the AP article
- read the Medscape article