The US House is expected to vote December 13 on legislation that will include a two-year extension of the current Medicare physician pay rates, including a one percent increase. The plan is part of a larger bill that seeks to address an expiring payroll tax, according to a report in Modern Healthcare. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.), co-chair of the Republican Doctors Caucus, revealed the plan in an interview with the magazine. He said that a permanent fix to the sustainable growth rate (SGR) was unlikely this year, but Congress would have time to develop a replacement over the next two years. Rep. Gingrey said the House plans to adjourn December 19, and it’s not known whether the Senate will support the House bill.
Medicare physician fees are scheduled to be cut by 29.5 percent on January 1, 2012, unless Congress acts to delay the cuts, as it has done on several occasions in recent years.
This week groups representing hospitals and health care systems urged lawmakers not to reduce Medicare payments to hospitals or Medicaid funding as a means to offset steep cuts in Medicare physician payments. Click here to read the letter, as published in Modern Healthcare on December 7, 2011.
Organized Medicine Continues Fight for SGR Elimination
The NCMS and AMA continue to advocate for a permanent solution and are urging lawmakers to utilize the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding to offset elimination of the SGR. OCO funding refers to discretionary funds for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and similar activities. The Department of Defense (DOD) establishes funding levels for the OCO each year. Even though operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are winding down and are expected to continue winding down significantly over the next ten years, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) cannot downwardly adjust its estimate for OCO spending over the next ten years until the next (FY 2012) Defense Appropriations bill is passed. Even then the CBO estimate for OCO spending is likely to remain artificially high, according to the AMA during a conference call earlier this week.
As stated in the AMA briefing, the OCO provides a unique and time-limited opportunity to resolve a problem that has been a burden to patients, physicians and to Congress. Passing up this opportunity means that Congress will have an even more costly problem to resolve in future years, requiring even more difficult choices.
The NCMS urges physicians to contact their Representatives and Senators and tell them you want Congress to repeal the SGR and develop a permanent fix for the broken system.
Click here to obtain contact information for members of the NC Congressional Delegation.
Physicians—We Need to Hear from You about the SGR Medicare Physician Rate Cuts
With the 29.5-percent Sustainable Growth Rate cut set for January 1, 2012, and the ongoing problems with the Medicare fee schedule, physicians report that they are considering different actions to address the issue.
Please follow the link below to take a quick survey that will help the NCMS better understand how the proposed cut will impact North Carolina physicians and their patients. The results of the survey will also allow the Society to meaningfully communicate with Congress and the media regarding these issues. As always, individual responses are confidential and only aggregate results will be reported.
Click here to take the survey.