Ten days after Congress voted to avoid the latest scheduled Medicare physician pay cut, the primary Medicare advisory body renewed calls for a repeal of that payment system.
The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission urged repeal and replacement of the sustainable growth-rate formula under which Medicare calculates physician payments. The recommendation will be formally delivered to Congress on March 15 as part of MedPAC's annual report.
That recommendation followed the Jan. 1 enactment of the American Taxpayer Relief Act, which included a one-year delay in a scheduled 26.5% cut in physician payments from Medicare that was scheduled to begin this year.
The panel has supported repeal of the SGR for 12 years and it laid out the same blueprint Thursday to pay for the elimination using a range of pay freezes and cuts to providers that it first proposed in 2011 (PDF)
The Medicare physician pay formula was created in 1997 to limit the program's spending growth by linking physician pay to the growth of the economy. But Congress has voted repeatedly since 2003 to override the formula's physician cuts.
Notably, the commission's study of Medicare beneficiaries shows that their access to physicians has improved in recent years, despite the claims of physician groups to the contrary. For instance, surveys of beneficiaries reported that the wait times to see physicians have dropped, with 53% of beneficiaries reporting waits of three days or less in 2010, compared to only 50% having such short waits in 2001.