It's Christmas in July for Medicare-participating physicians—though the gift is far from being delivered. On Wednesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously passed bipartisan legislation to repeal Medicare's sustainable growth-rate formula (PDF) and replace it with a stable system of payments to the nation's physicians.
For years, Congress has waited until the end of the calendar year to stave off a steep Medicare payment cut to physicians with a temporary fix. But Energy and Commerce Committee members attempted to tackle the contentious issue earlier this year when they voted 51-0 to approve the bill, the culmination of more than two years of work involving members of the House Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means Committees, as well as feedback from healthcare providers.
The big catch is the bill offers no way to pay for repealing the SGR, which the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated earlier this year would cost about $139 billion over 10 years—a much lower cost than in previous years due to the decline in Medicare cost growth. The pay-for part undoubtedly will involve a fierce battle among healthcare industry sectors, none of whom want to be nicked.