January 29, 2010
Senate bill to increase debt limit could set the stage for five-year SGR freeze: Provisions fall short of medicine’s goal of true reform
On Thursday the Senate passed H.J. Res. 45, a resolution to raise the federal debt limit. The resolution also included a “PAYGO” provision, meaning that any new spending or tax cuts must be offset by spending cuts or tax increases. Noteworthy for physicians, H.J. Res. Includes several exemptions from PAYGO rules, including one for a temporary fix to the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate formula (SGR).
The SGR exemption would allow up to $82 billion in spending for an SGR fix, which would likely translate into a five-year freeze with larger cuts expected thereafter. Some reports suggest that actual SGR reform provisions will be attached to legislation extending unemployment insurance, expected to be introduced soon.
Without further Congressional action, anesthesiologists and all physicians face a 21 percent Medicare payment cut beginning March 1, 2010, with additional cuts projected in future years.
Instead of a short-term fix, ASA strongly supports SGR reforms passed by the U.S. House of Representatives as H.R. 3961, the “Medicare Physician Payment Reform Act.” H.R. 3961 passed the House by a vote of 2430183 on Nov. 19, 2009, and was subsequently placed on the Senate calendar. This legislation would permanently repeal the unworkable SGR and create a path for future positive updates.
ASA members should call their Senators and ask them to bring H.R. 3961 to the Senate floor, and pass it immediately. Please click HERE for call instructions and talking points.