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Without Way to Pay for SGR Repeal, Is Optimism in Vain?

Jacqueline Fellows, for HealthLeaders Media, December 5, 2013

Repeal of the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate has clear momentum, but with 2013 winding down and the $139 billion price tag still unresolved, physicians could be facing yet another short-term fix.

There is unmistakable momentum in Congress for repealing the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR), but as 2013 winds down with Congress eyeing the holiday recess, physicians could be facing the possibility of yet another short-term fix.

Next week, the Senate Finance Committee holds an executive session to mark up the bipartisan draft proposal that would repeal the SGR and replace it with a mix of payment freezes and alternative payment models that reward physicians with bonuses for value and quality rather than volume. The draft proposal was crafted with the House Ways and Means committee and released at the end of October.

Repeal would be a landmark moment for Congress and physician groups, such as the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American College of Physicians (ACP), because it is the first time both chambers and parties agreed on a plan physicians say they can stomach.

"Clearly now we have a trajectory of activity that has never been seen before in the history of our work around the SGR," says AMA President Ardis Dee Hoven, MD. "It started with the House Energy and Commerce committee. They started running the ball down the field, and [House] Ways and Means and [Senate] Finance obviously are picking up on this. It's bipartisan, bicameral, and it's enthusiastically supported."

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