Today the American College of Surgeons (ACS) issued comments on the bipartisan, bicameral legislative proposal to permanently repeal the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula and reform the Medicare physician payment system.
The ACS supports Congress’s efforts to fix the flawed Medicare physician payment system by repealing the Sustainable Growth Rate formula. Unfortunately, we oppose the current Senate Finance and House Ways and Means Committees’ proposal, because it calls for a 10-year physician payment freeze and provides inadequate incentives for providing value-based care. We believe the impact of these two provisions would hinder our members’ ability to keep their practices open, disincentivize the sharing of best practices, and place patients’ access to surgical services at risk.
While the College remains supportive of the overarching goals of repealing the SGR and moving to a system that rewards the provision of high quality, efficient health care, a successful transition requires the enactment of sound health care policy. Physician payments have already been frozen for a decade while the costs of treating patients has increased 20 percent; another 10 years of frozen payments is unsustainable and will compromise patient access to surgical care.
On Friday, December 6, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued a memo, which once again has reduced the cost of permanently repealing the SGR. With the score of permanent reform falling by more than $23 billion, Congress now has the opportunity to not only permanently patch the SGR, but to provide positive updates to physicians.
We urge the committees to postpone the markup of the current proposal and continue to work with the ACS to revise the proposal and ensure the policy is correct and represents sound health policy that will endure the test of time. We believe there are strong policy components in H.R. 2810, the Energy & Commerce Committee’s SGR reform legislation, which could be combined with the current proposal. We remain committed to reforming the Medicare physician payment system with sound health care policy and forging a new, patient-centric, quality-based health care system.