[On Tuesday], Congressman Joe Pitts (PA-16) passed a bipartisan bill to reform Medicare payments out of the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee with a voice vote. The bill represents more than two years of work toward replacing a Medicare payment formula that would have drastically cut reimbursement for doctors and reduced access for patients.
“For ten years now, Congress has kicked the can down the road and temporarily delayed cuts to doctors participating in Medicare,” said Pitts. “Since taking on leadership of the Health Subcommittee I’ve led an effort to repeal the flawed Sustainable Growth Rate formula and replace it with a system that works better for doctors and patients.”
The Sustainable Growth Rate was created by the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 in order to reduce Medicare spending. Since 2003, Congress has delayed implementation of the SGR formula with a series of short-term patches but never considered a permanent solution. The bipartisan draft legislation advanced today represents the first meaningful attempt to repeal the SGR.
“For a long time, there has been recognition that if the SGR were put into place, doctors would be forced to drop out of Medicare and patients would get hurt,” said Pitts. “However, the complexity of putting together a replacement and the political risk of making a major change to Medicare kept previous Congresses from acting.”
The Energy and Commerce Committee process for replacing the SGR has been both bipartisan and transparent. Pitts and the staff of the Health Subcommittee have worked side-by-side with Democrat counterparts in working on draft legislation. Frequent hearings provided opportunities for public comment from doctor and patient groups and all members of the subcommittee.
Starting this spring, the committee began to release draft legislation and solicit comments from all interested parties. These comments helped mold the legislation that was considered today.
Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA), Ranking Member of the full committee said, “I want to thank the Chairman of the full Committee and the Subcommittee for the bipartisan spirit in which we have been working on this. I think we all agree that the legislation coming out of our Subcommittee is a much better product because of our collaborative efforts.”
Congressman Frank Pallone, Ranking Member of the Health Subcommittee said, “I was pleased to cosponsor this bill, which is long overdue, and I’d like to point out that this is the first true bipartisan effort in any committee of jurisdiction to finally address how to actually replace the SGR not just a temporary repeal.”
- Congress May Finally Fix Medicare Payment Flaw, Avert Doctor Exodus (forbes.com)
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- Bipartisan bill in Congress would repeal unsustainable physician payment system (bizjournals.com)