The sustainable growth rate formula that’s used for physician reimbursement under Medicare has been the top priority for doctors’ lobbies for years. The prospect of a permanent “doc fix” matters to them tremendously because it means certainty for physicians who have grown weary of worrying about looming pay cuts year after year.
There’s something of a joke on the Hill that the doc fix is a job creator, because so many lobbyists are devoted to ensuring a measure passes each year to address the formula. If everyone got their wish and a new formula was approved, all those experts would need to move on to new endeavors.
The doctors’ lobbies care not just about a permanent fix, but what would replace the current formula if the SGR is repealed. Proposals that increase pay for primary care doctors but reduce them for specialists could split the groups. One such legislative proposal making the rounds has the support of many groups, including the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Osteopathic Association, and the American College of Cardiology, but not the American Medical Association. The groups are communicating their wishes to the committee staff working on the in-house legislative proposal.
Though it doesn’t affect them directly, hospital groups also care about getting a permanent repeal of the sustainable growth rate on the books because, over the years, most of the cuts for temporary fixes have come out of their pockets.
Some hospital lobbyists think this year, with the low price tag, would be the most painless time to take a last round of cuts and be done with the process.
This article appears in the April 18, 2013, edition of NJ Daily as Doctors Badly Want a Prescription for SGR.