On November 18, the U.S. Senate passed a quick, one-month extension of the current SGR formula in a first step to avoid the 23 percent payment cut physicians are facing on December 1. The House of Representatives has already recessed for Thanksgiving and will take up this one-month fix when they return on November 29. The current House Democratic leadership has indicated a desire to pass the Senate fix immediately upon returning to session on November 29th in order to avoid the implementation of the cut for even a single day. The one-month SGR payment fix is expected to cost about $1 billion.
Leaders in both the House and the Senate continue to work on a 12-month fix that would prevent any SGR payment cuts through the end of 2011, but that fix is not likely to occur until the end of December. The longer fix is expected to cost as much as $15 billion.
“While I am pleased that the Senate has acted swiftly on the pending payment cut and the House is expected to act upon its return from the Thanksgiving break, I remain concerned about another round of short term fixes,” said ASA President Mark Warner, M.D. “I hope that the ultimate result of this Congressional session will be a fix of at least one year. This extended period must then be followed by a strong bipartisan commitment from Congress to work with the physician community to finally replace the badly flawed SGR formula with a new update mechanism that works,” he added. “The frequent disruptions and delayed payments caused by the current formula and Congress’ inability to fix it except for short periods are simply unfair to our members who have payrolls and other practice management expenses.”
ASA continues to support permanent repeal and replacement of the SGR formula with a payment system that accurately reflects the costs of providing care. Short of full repeal, ASA supports proposals that 1) provide for appropriate payment updates; 2) do not exacerbate projected future payment cuts; and 3) begin to address the magnitude of the projected payment cuts – the “SGR debt.”