A provision in the bill specifically addresses Medicare's sustainable growth-rate, or SGR, formula, which is based on the health of the economy and has been threatening cuts to doctors since 2003. The measure earmarks $82 billion to help fund a revamp of the SGR and does so in such a way that it doesn't require offsetting cuts in other areas.
What it doesn't do, however, is tackle how to fully pay for what has become a $200 billion problem, or try to repeal or replace the SGR.
“We still don't have an update for this year, and if nothing else happens, physicians still face a 21% reduction on March 1,” said Kevin Burke, director of government relations at the American Academy of Family Physicians.
Burke offered that Congress might be looking to attach a more substantial type of fix to a bill that would extend unemployment insurance.
“I don't know if this would originate in the House or the Senate, but it would specify a payment update for a set number of years. I understand the amount of the update and the length of the provision are still under discussion,” he said, adding, “This is not likely to get resolved until the final week of February.”
In the meantime, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) has indicated a short-term freeze on physician payments might be attached to the jobs bill the Senate plans to bring to the floor on Feb. 8.
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