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When Will Congress Put an End to Recurring "SGR Nightmare?"
December 19, 2011
Washington: Congress' "disarray and dysfunction" jeopardize
access to medical care for many millions of seniors, disabled
persons, and military families, said the American College of
Physicians (ACP) in a statement released today and shared with
House and Senate leadership. ACP is the largest physician specialty
society-and second largest physician membership organization-in the
United States, representing 132,000 internal medicine specialist
physicians and medical student members.
Just 13 days remain before payments for physician services to
Medicare and TriCare patients will be cut by 27.4 percent, yet
Congressional efforts to prevent the cut, caused by Medicare's
Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula, are in complete
Last week the House passed a bill, as part of a broader
"extenders" package, to prevent the Medicare cuts for two years,
replacing them with a small positive update. The House bill,
though, included budget offsets and policy riders that were
unacceptable to the Senate and White House. On Saturday, the Senate
passed a short-term patch, as part of its extenders bill, which
would have extended current Medicare payment rates for only two
months. Today, the leadership of the House of Representatives
stated that the Senate bill is unacceptable, and that it instead
would seek an agreement on a year-long extension of Medicare
payment rates and other expiring provisions. Yet the House has not
presented a plan to resolve its differences with the Senate and the
White House, and with the Senate already on recess, there is no
clear path forward that would allow Congress to act before the 27.4
percent cut goes into effect on January 1.
"With each passing day, it appears more likely that Congress
will just allow the 27.4 percent cut to go into effect, despite
lawmakers' repeated promises all year that they would prevent it,"
said Dr. Virginia Hood, ACP's president. "Most physician practices
are small businesses, and they can't stay open for business as
usual if Medicare doesn't cover their practice costs. Physicians
will have to make very difficult-and painful-choices such as
closing their practices, laying off staff, or limiting how many
patients they can see, choices that will be foisted upon them by
ACP reiterated its call for Congress to enact legislation to
prevent the January 1 cut, but also explained that ACP cannot get
behind another short-tem patch that leaves the underlying SGR
formula in effect.
"Instead of replaying the tired old script of arguing over
whether the cut should be delayed for two months or two years, or
something in between, Congress must do the right thing and enact a
permanent solution," Dr. Hood continued. "At Congress' request, ACP
and other physician organizations have put forward concrete
proposals to eliminate the SGR, stabilize payments, support the
value of primary care, and transition to new patient-centered care
and delivery models, and ACP even gave Congress proposals to help
pay for it. When will Congress do its part and join with us to
develop a bipartisan plan to end the recurring SGR nightmare?"
The American College of Physicians (www.acponline.org) is the largest medical
specialty organization and the second-largest physician group in
the United States. ACP members include 132,000 internal medicine
physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical
students. Internists specialize in the prevention, detection, and
treatment of illness in adults. Follow ACP on Twitter and Facebook.
David Kinsman, (202) 261-4554, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jacquelyn Blaser, (202) 261-4572, email@example.com