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SGR fix will freeze doc salaries, plastic surgeons' group says

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons is breaking from the pack of healthcare organizations that support a new plan to pass a permanent repeal of Medicare's sustainable growth-rate formula. Instead, the society is voicing its opposition to what it calls a 10-year pay freeze incorporated into the proposal.

“Right now, this bill to us is a bill that everyone is just rushing to sign to get this SGR thing out of the way,” said Dr. Scot Glasberg, president of the society. “We're tremendously thankful that there's bipartisan support for getting it done, but getting it done doesn't mean sweeping it under the rug, it means actually coming up with something meaningful for physicians.”

The bill's proposed fee updates of 0.5% annually for the first five years, followed by a 0% update for the following five years effectively freezes reimbursement rates for a decade, Glasberg said.

“You have to tell me one professional, one worker, one anyone out there who would agree to a 10-year freeze on their salary,” Glasberg said. “You can't possibly survive at that rate when there are cost-of-living increases.”

As reported by Modern Healthcare's Paul Demko, House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi brokered a $213 billion deal that would overhaul SGR, as well provide as a two-year extension of the Children's Health Insurance Program. Funding for the package would come in part through $70 billion in spending reductions split between cuts to Medicare benefits and reductions in provider payments.

Other physician groups, including the American College of Physicians and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons backed the bill, lauding the efforts of congressional leaders to get a deal done before the current temporary fix expires at the end of March. If nothing replaced that fix, doctors would have seen a 21.2% cut in their payments beginning April 1.

“We are pleased that the bill is fiscally responsible, by putting an end to the practice of Congress passing seemingly endless SGR 'patches' that each time have cost taxpayers tens of billions of dollars,” an ACP statement read. “ACP strongly urges both the House of Representatives and the Senate to pass this bill so it becomes law before the current, and we hope and expect, the final SGR 'patch' expires on April 1.”

Glasberg said he anticipates criticism of the bill will increase as more physicians understand its details.

“I really think physicians across the country don't know what's in this bill,” he said. “I think there needs to be more meaningful discussion on the elements of the bill.”

Follow Steven Ross Johnson on Twitter: @MHsjohnson


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Steven Ross Johnson

Steven Ross Johnson has been a staff reporter for Modern Healthcare magazine since 2013 and covers issues involving public health and other healthcare news. Johnson has been a freelance reporter for the Chicago Tribune, Progress Illinois, the Chicago Reporter and the Times of Northwest Indiana and a government affairs reporter for the Courier-News in Elgin, Ill. He received a bachelor's degree in communications from Columbia College in Chicago and a master’s degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

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