On April 1, 2015, physicians will face a 21% cut in Medicare payments due to the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR). The bill that created the SGR in 1997 was intended to keep Medicare costs low for beneficiaries. However, the SGR ultimately threatens to limit patient access to quality physician care.
Congress, again, holds the fate of physicians in their hands; unfortunately, this is nothing new. The U.S. House of Representatives and Senate have failed annually to repeal the SGR, opting instead to “patch” the spending cuts. These temporary fixes have senselessly wasted billions of dollars in the process, in lieu of a significantly cheaper and permanent alternative.
If allowed to take effect, the SGR would take money away from doctors, giving us just 79% of our earnings for providing the same level of quality care for Medicare patients. The AASM stands behind physicians who rightfully deserve 100% payment for 100% effort.
With just one week until the SGR unleashes irreparable damage, and with Congress preparing to break for a two-week recess at the end of this week, the time for action is now.
The SGR is a flawed and unsustainable measure with a formula that baselessly includes unrelated financial figures, such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP). With the cost of providing 21st century health care perpetually rising, the AASM believes that physician payment should reflect such increases.
Although party leaders have made agreements to move forward and allow a vote on a permanent fix, dissenting legislators are threating a challenge to rational and fair legislation. Without physicians’ voices at the table, it is safe to say that we will be left out of the political conversation.
Timothy I. Morgenthaler, MD