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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

SGR Repeal Bill Favors Primary Care

Robert Lowes
MedScape Medical News
Originally published February 06, 2013

Two members of Congress today reintroduced an ambitious bill that would repeal Medicare's sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula for setting physician pay and gradually phase out fee-for-service (FFS) reimbursement.

One major difference this time around for the bipartisan bill, originally introduced in May 2012, is that its price tag appears considerably lower, making passage more likely.

When Reps. Allyson Schwartz (D-PA) and Joe Heck, DO (R-NV), proposed this legislation last year, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) had estimated that repealing the SGR and merely freezing current Medicare rates for 10 years would cost roughly $320 billion.

Since then, the CBO has reduced that 10-year estimate on the basis of lower than projected Medicare spending on physician services for the past 3 years. In a budget forecast released yesterday, the agency put the cost of a 10-year rate freeze at $138 billion.

The immediate effect of the bill from Schwartz and Dr. Heck, titled the Medicare Physician Payment Innovation Act, would be to avert a Medicare pay cut of roughly 25% on January 1, 2014, that is mandated by the SGR formula. Instead, the bill maintains 2013 rates through the end of 2014.

After 2014, Medicare would begin to shift from FFS to a methodology that rewards physicians for the quality and efficiency of patient care. From 2015 through 2018, the rates for primary care, preventive, and care coordination services would increase annually by 2.5% for physicians for whom 60% of Medicare allowables fall into these categories. Medicare rates for all other physician services would rise annually by 0.5%.

Meanwhile, the bill calls on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to step up its efforts to test and evaluate new models of delivering and paying for healthcare (experiments with medical homes, accountable care organizations, and bundled payments are already underway). By October 2017, CMS must give physicians its best menu of new models to choose from. Two menu options would allow some physicians unable to fully revolutionize to participate in a modified FFS scheme.

The entire article is here.

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