Last year, the 113th Congress came closer than any previous Congress to repealing the Sustainable Growth Rate and presenting viable payment reforms. After a year of work, the relevant congressional committees had unanimous support for an SGR repeal bill that not only repealed the SGR and provided for a period of positive updates but also set the stage for a new generation of physician payment arrangements that promote quality and value while maintaining a viable fee-for-service system.   This was a significant accomplishment made possible by strong advocates within the Congress and a united front by organized medicine.
Unfortunately, this bipartisan, bicameral agreement failed to become law due to Congress’ persistent inability to agree on whether or how to offset additional costs to the current fictional budget baseline.  In March, Congress forced through a 17th SGR patch bill despite significant opposition.  Despite declarations from leaders on both sides of the aisle that work would proceed, there is no evidence that any serious efforts were made to resolve the budget issue.
There are only 37 days that the new Congress will be in session before the current SGR patch expires on April 1.  Fortunately, the 113th Congress left a blueprint for reform.  The AMA hopes legislators will build on the progress made last year so that medicine can focus on addressing other important health care policy issues.
Watch the Bulletin in the coming weeks for updates and talking points to let your representatives know this matter needs to be resolved for doctors and their patients.