March 14, 2014
1 min read
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Medicare SGR reform hits another political snag in Congress

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Efforts to eliminate Medicare’s sustainable growth rate formula hit a political speed bump early today when the Republican-controlled House of Representatives approved a measure including provisions to delay implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Even before the 238-181 vote, the American Medical Association wrote to Congress expressing “profound disappointment” that the process to reform Medicare’s sustainable growth rate formula (SGR) had “become a victim of partisan approaches to resolve budgetary issues.”

Lawmakers face a March 31 deadline, when the current payment patch will expire, triggering a 24% cut to physician payments.

The measure approved today would delay for 5 years the tax penalty Americans would be required to pay for not signing up for insurance.

Although lawmakers approved an overhaul of SGR in February, no agreement was reached on how to fund the cost of the “doc fix,” now estimated by the Congressional Budget Office to be $138 billion.

The American College of Physicians criticized the effort to stall the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, saying, “We cannot support linking SGR repeal to changes in current law that will result in fewer people getting health insurance coverage.”

Reid Blackwelder, MD, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, also reacted to what he called the “disturbing” vote.

“Over the past year we have witnessed tremendous effort to develop a bipartisan policy solution that eliminates this failed payment formula and puts in place the levers to move our delivery and payment system in a new direction,” Blackwelder said. “It is disturbing that work designed to expand access to quality health care would be advanced alongside a policy that deliberately removes access to quality health care coverage.”

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