Doctors decided that Feb. 20 was an SGR anniversary worth noting but definitely not celebrating.
On that day in 2003, then-President George W. Bush signed into law the first legislative “patch” delaying Medicare pay cuts to physicians as called for by the sustainable growth-rate payment formula that was part of the 1997 Balanced Budget Act. The signing in 2003 started a Congressional “kick the can” tradition that has resulted in 16 patches (PDF) costing a total of $153.7 billion.
“Physicians throughout America today are recognizing a truly rotten anniversary,” Dr. Molly Cooke, president of the American College of Physicians, said in a release.
Cooke urged doctors to send messages “via every social media platform” that it was time to repeal the SGR.
The ACP took its fight to twitter using the hashtag #SGR_11_16_154 to mark the 11th anniversary of the SGR and its 16 patches costing just under $154 billion.
Robert Doherty, ACP senior vice president of government affairs and public policy, tweeted “We Don't Need No Stinkin' Patches,” and linked to his blog post explaining 12 reasons to stop the “highway robbery” being perpetrated on taxpayers by the 11 years of SGR patches.
Dr. Sue Bornstein a member of the ACP Board of Governors tweeted “Patches are for clowns and this ain't funny.” Dr. Jacqueline Fincher, also on the ACP board, keeps her tweets protected, but Doherty tweeted the “prescription” she wrote to Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) which called for no more SGR patches, “no refills,” and for Isakson and his colleagues to “Pass S. 2000 now”
Senate Bill 2000 is the SGR Repeal and Medicare Provider Payment Modernization Act, which—as the name suggests—would repeal the SGR and enact several other physician payment reforms. Physician associations have been pressing Congress to pass the measure, but they have been quiet in offering suggestions on how to cover its estimated $126 billion cost.
One physician group that has come up with a suggestion is the American Society for Radiation Oncology, or ASTRO, which “urges the closure of the physician self-referral loophole” for in-office ancillary services as a pay-for.
The Promoting Integrity in Medicare Act of 2013, introduced last year, called for eliminating in-office ancillary services and ASTRO recommends incorporating that bill into the current SGR-repeal legislation.
An SGR-driven 24% Medicare pay cut will take effect unless Congress acts by March 31.
Follow Andis Robeznieks on Twitter: @MHARobeznieks