Thursday, July 25, 2013

Congress Working to Ensure Medicare Patients Have Access to Their Doctor

Every year for almost 12 years, physicians have faced steep Medicare payment cuts due to a flawed formula used to pay doctors who care for Medicare patients. Every year, to avert a cut, Congress has passed a short-term fix. Meanwhile the size of the potential cut physicians face grows. Right now, if Congress does not fix the flawed formula by Jan. 1, 2014, physicians face a payment cut of 30 percent. The payment uncertainty has prompted many physicians to reconsider their participation in Medicare at a time when more physicians are needed to care for the onslaught of baby boomers aging into the program.

A bipartisan group of U.S. representatives has drafted a bill to repeal the flawed formula, known as the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR), to ensure seniors, persons with disabilities, and military families who depend on Medicare for their health care have access to physicians.

The new bill, introduced by Rep. Michael Burgess, MD (R-Lewisville), scraps the SGR and creates a more stable payment system. The bill also creates a quality-incentive program that would pay physicians a 1-percent bonus for the best results. It also would impose a 1-percent penalty for poorer patient results.

Yesterday the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee approved the bill. It is expected to go before the full House Energy and Commerce Committee next week, then to the U.S. House of Representatives before Congress breaks for its August recess.

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