The American Medical Association on Tuesday flatly rejected a bid by Congress to give physicians back-to-back years of higher Medicare payments, entrenching itself again in a battle over the problematic formula for reimbursement and likely ensuring another round of stopgap fixes.
AMA rebuffs 'doc fix' draft; short-term freeze likely
In an e-mail sent to its member organizations, the AMA said that it would not support anything short of a permanent repeal of the Sustainable Growth Rate formula. The SGR has threatened doctors with double-digit cuts for years and has beguiled lawmakers who've watched the cost of “fixing” it skyrocket well into the hundreds of billions of dollars.
“For the last several years, Congress has chosen short-term remedies that have resulted in larger future physician payment cuts and made it much more expensive to scrap a formula that Democrats and Republicans have both said should be repealed,” the e-mail states.
The latest missive comes after House and Senate negotiators considered a measure that would have given physicians a 2.2% update for the balance of 2010 and modified the SGR, according to the AMA and two healthcare lobbyists independent of the association.
Under the provision, doctors would see a 1% update in 2011 followed by two years with a baseline of 0%, but with increases possible under a revised payment formula that would index updates based on economic growth plus a one-to-two percentage point increase.
But the measure would have ultimately reverted back to the previous SGR formula, setting up an expected 37% pay cut in 2015, which would cost Congress roughly $500 billion to overturn, according to AMA estimates.
The revised effort was crafted by the chairmen of the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee and would have landed as part of a legislative package meant to extend a number of safety net healthcare measures as well as expiring tax cuts.
Attempts to tweak the SGR formula have changed rapidly over the course of negotiations, underscoring the always-fluid debate between lawmakers who have seen the overall package grow in size and cost.
Physicians face a 21% pay cut starting on June 1. Congress already has stepped in twice to avert the cut, but not before pushing the deadline to do so.
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