Doctors Await Decision on SGR, Pay Cuts

Cheryl Clark, November 7, 2011

The nation's physician workforce anxiously awaits the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction recommendation to Congress on how to avoid the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula, which is poised to take the largest chunk in history?nearly two of every three dollars?out of their Medicare fees.
In the meantime, the epithets abound. American College of Physicians president Virginia Hood, MD, predicts "devastating access problems for patients" if the cut is allowed to stand, according to a statement released last week.

The American Academy of Family Physicians President Glen Stream, MD, says the cut would pose "a serious threat to the financial viability of physician practices" that provide care to one in four Americans. For some physicians, Medicare patients number 80% of their practices. It is "folly," he said in a news release.
And the American Medical Association's Peter W. Carmel, MD, said in a statement he sees "a looming crisis."

The 27.4% pay cut under the SGR formula is less than the 29.5% reduction projected last March, but it seems physician groups are not relieved one bit. The cut would mean practitioners who treat the oldest and the sickest patients would receive about $22 billion less nationally just in the formula's first year, which would begin in less than two months.

To stop the cuts and repeal the SGR would cost Medicare $293 billion over 10 years, by one estimate, if physician fees are merely frozen.
If these cuts, or even less draconian ones such as the $200 million in recommended reductions from MedPAC, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, take effect, physician groups predict doctors will reduce the number of Medicare patients they are willing to see.

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