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Parties urge action on Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate before year's end

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Now is the time to solve the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate problem, medical groups say.

It’s not just that physician reimbursements would take a 24.4 percent cut starting Jan. 1 if yet another fix is not enacted. According to the American Medical Association, the Congressional Budget Office’s new projection of the cost to eliminate the SGR -- $139.1 billion over 10 years -- is less than half of what the price repeal would have been last year.

“We’re pulling out the stops to get Congress to act and take a fiscally responsible course that will stop the annual cycle of draconian Medicare cuts and short-term patches,” AMA President Dr. Ardis Dee Hoven said in a news release. “Now is the time to move past the annual SGR crisis and toward a Medicare program that ensures access to high-quality and efficient health care for patients and a stable practice environment for physicians.”

The U.S. Senate Finance Committee has scheduled an open executive session on the SGR issue for Dec. 12. Leaders of it and the Ways and Means Committee released a draft proposal last month and, back in July, House Resolution 2810 was introduced.

In a Nov. 12 letter, The Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania called both the draft and bill “constructive first steps” but urged Congress not to reduce payments to hospitals as a source of funding to offset the cost of addressing the SGR problem. The Pennsylvania Medical Society also has urged action on the issue.

The SGR formula ties physician payment updates to the relationship between overall fee schedule spending and growth in gross domestic product. It was intended to contain the growth in spending on physician services but has instead triggered nearly $150 billion in short-term overrides to prevent pending cuts over the past decade.

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