SGR Repeal Bill Advances to Full House Committee

Margaret Dick Tocknell, July 24, 2013

So-called "doc-fix" legislation that would replace the sustainable growth rate formula with a system that rewards physicians for delivering quality care could be up for a full committee vote this week.

A bipartisan proposal to repeal and replace the sustainable growth rate formula took a critical step forward on Tuesday. By voice vote, the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Health passed a bill that replaces the existing Medicare's physician payment formula with a system to reward physicians for delivering quality care.

The action clears the way for a full committee vote, which could happen this week. Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), who chairs the E&C Committee, has let it be known that he wants a full House vote on the SGR repeal and replace bill before Congress takes its annual August recess.

The lack of a funding scheme or offset could limit the bill's progress, however. The cost of repeal is currently tallied at $138 billion over 10 years.

Still, Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA), the subcommittee chair, heaped praise upon the bill. "The time of temporary fixes and kicking the can down the road has ended," Pitts said in a statement. "The bipartisan committee draft we approved today permanently repeals the SGR and places us on a path to paying for innovation and quality, not volume of services, and puts doctors not bureaucrats, back in charge of medicine."

In addition to repealing the SGR, the key components of the bill include:

A five-year period of payment stability
The bill provides an annual statutory update of 0.5% per year for 2014 through 2018. During this time, payment incentives such as the Physician Quality Reporting Program (PQRS) and the Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Program will continue.

Margaret Dick Tocknell Margaret Dick Tocknell is a reporter/editor with HealthLeaders Media.
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