The bipartisan debt commission appointed by President Obama recently released its recommendations on how to pare the country’s debt.
Of interest to doctors is the suggestion to change the way doctors are paid. Physician lobbies have been advocating for removal of the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula — the flawed method by which Medicare, and subsequently private insurers, pays doctors. According to this method, physicians are due for a pay cut of more than 20 percent next month.
According to the commission:
The plan proposes eliminating the SGR in 2015 and replacing it with a “modest reduction” for physicians and other providers. The plan doesn’t elaborate on what constitutes a “modest reduction” in Medicare reimbursement.
Meanwhile, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) should establish a new payment system — one that rewards doctors for quality, and includes accountable care organizations and bundling payments by episodes of care, the report said.
The commission also said in order to pay for the SGR reform, medical malpractice lawyers should be paid less, there should be a cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases, and that comprehensive tort reform should be adopted.
There’s little question that associating physician reimbursements with the number of tests and treatments ordered is a major driver of health costs. Removing that incentive, and better valuing the time doctors spend with patients, is a positive step in the right direction. Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at KevinMD.com*
“It will never happen.”
“They know better than to do it.”
“They realize the disaster it would be if they let it pass.”
That’s what I hear. I hear that the upcoming SGR adjustment, the one that will cut Medicare reimbursement by 23 percent, won’t go through.
In case you missed it, the SGR is a formula coming from the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 that does automatic cuts to Medicare reimbursement. This year we witnessed a legislative game of chicken in congress, with both sides agreeing that it was a bad idea to screw physicians in a time that they are trying to fix healthcare. Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at Musings of a Distractible Mind*
This is something I haven’t seen reported on elsewhere, but according to the ACEP 911 Legislative Network Weekly Update, there was an interesting twist in the Democrats’ proposed SGR fix:
The latest plan increases physician payments by 1.3% for the remainder of this year and by an additional 1% in 2011. In 2012 and 2013, physician services would be separated into two categories, or “buckets.” One bucket would be for E&M services (including emergency department, primary and preventive care) and the other group would include all other services. The E&M bucket would increase at the same rate as the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) plus 2%, while the other group would receive a payment increase of GDP plus 1%.After 2013, the payment formula would revert back to the current SGR formula, which means physicians would face cuts in the range of 30-35% unless Congress intervenes.
So it’s another temporary fix, kicking the can past the next presidential election. But it’s the first one I have seen that attempts to address the gross disparity in reimbursement for procedural services compared to the cognitive services. It bypasses the RUC and almost every other existing mechanism for determining reimbursement under the MPFS.
I’m not sure what happened with this proposal. I don’t think it was in the version of legislation the House passed, so I think it might be dead. But the situation is so in flux that who really knows? If nothing else, it’s an encouraging sign that policymakers know the problem exists and are willing to throw out possible solutions. This one may be dead, but it’s a good start.
*This blog post was originally published at Movin' Meat*