Doc groups demand SGR fix as part of deficit reduction

With Medicare physician reimbursement once again up for a 29.5 percent cut on January 1, 2012, over 100 groups representing U.S. doctors are urging the Obama Administration to finally revamp the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula the government uses to pay doctors as part of its federal deficit-reduction plan.

As part of their plea, the American Medical Association (AMA), the American College of Physicians, and the American College of Cardiologists, together with a 109 other medical groups and societies, emphasized in their June 27 letter that the cost of a permanent SGR repeal grows substantially with every temporary fix. According to the AMA, changing the formula now will cost $300 billion over 10 years, but would balloon to over $500 billion in "only a few short years" of further delay.

Calling debt-ceiling legislation the "best-and perhaps only" opportunity to fix the formula and ensure Medicare beneficiary access to care, the letter references several ideas to repeal the SGR put forth by physicians to a Congressional committee in May.

As part of that testimony, the AMA suggested implementing a five-year period of stable Medicare physician payments and testing demonstration and pilot projects that could form the basis for a new Medicare physician payment system. More recently, a June report from the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission indicated that the group may recommend modest physician pay updates over multiple years, in addition to revising certain "overvalued" physician fees. On June 28, Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Tom Coburn, MD (R-Okla.) proposed a three-year fix they claim would save Medicare $600 billion over 10 years by shifting more costs to beneficiaries and raising the Medicare eligibility age to 67 for persons born in 1949 or later.

To learn more:
- read the press release
- read the article from Medpage Today
- read the post from The Hill's Healthwatch blog
- read the letter to President Obama from the AMA and 111 other physician groups
- read this article from American Medical News
- read this Medpage Today piece about the Lieberman/Coburn proposal