by: ASRM Office of Public Affairs
Published in ASRM Bulletin Volume 14, Number 12
Today, Congress approved a Medicare payment extension bill. The bill blocks a 27 percent cut in Medicare payments to doctors set for March 1, but only through the end of 2012. After that, because of the way the formula works, the payment cut grows. Congress has repeatedly passed a series of short term fixes to the doc payment formula known as the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula. The current agreement is part of a larger package that also extends the payroll tax break and unemployment compensation and is a legislative priority for the White House.
The American Medical Association expressed deep dissatisfaction that Congress did not agree to a proposal to outright repeal the SGR formula. Its $18 billion cost over ten years is paid for by various cuts under the health reform law and certain Medicare payments to hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, and clinical labs. A number of lawmakers supported a measure to repeal the SGR formula and offset the cost of doing so with savings attributable to the end of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. That missed opportunity will require Congress to revisit the issue again before the year’s end.
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