AMA Wire

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

This Week's News

Committee passes SGR repeal bill on Medicare's 48th anniversary

Committee passes SGR repeal bill on Medicares 48th anniversary

Draft legislation to repeal Medicare's sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula is moving forward in the U.S. House of Representatives following unanimous approval in committee markup Wednesday. The AMA is urging continued work to ensure the legislation will build a more sustainable health care system.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee reviewed the bill that would put to bed the payment formula that has created significant instability in the Medicare system even as the program marks its 48th anniversary of providing access to care for seniors and persons with disabilities. The AMA is reminding lawmakers that now is the time to reform the program's payment system so Medicare remains viable for future generations.

"In addition to repealing the SGR, today's vote is a significant step toward allowing physicians and other health care providers to design systems of care that best serve their patients through new and innovative health care delivery models," AMA Immediate-Past President Jeremy A. Lazarus, MD, said in a statement. "We will continue to work with Congress this year to achieve the best Medicare system for patients and physicians."

Meanwhile, the AMA sent a letter Tuesday to the committee chair and ranking member, thanking them for their leadership in looking to Medicare's future and for already incorporating a number of suggestions from the AMA into the draft bill. The letter also underscores the necessity of changing how several important issues are addressed in the current draft.

"The AMA strongly believes that more work is required to address issues related to the potential complexity of the proposed reporting system and to ensure that updates are sufficient to keep pace with the cost of caring for beneficiaries," the letter states. "Equally important, the policy under current law relating to budget neutrality for misvalued codes must be retained to provide adequate funding of the physician payment pool."

In a separate letter sent Thursday to the House Energy and Commerce Committee and its Subcommittee on Health, the AMA and eight other medical associations urged the lawmakers to revise the bill to correctly reallocate savings.

"Importantly, the budget neutrality concept enables the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to redistribute savings to services viewed as undervalued, as well as to new services when they are incorporated into the fee schedule," the associations wrote, citing coverage of care coordination and chronic disease management as examples.

In October, the AMA and 110 other medical associations submitted to Congress a set of key principles for reforming the Medicare payment system. The principles emphasize the need for flexible care delivery and payment models that physicians can use to help lower costs and improve their patients' quality of care, regardless of their practice size or setting. The AMA will continue to work with Congress toward aligning legislation with these principles.