Two Year Budget Deal Provides Temporary Fix to SGR Cuts
House and Senate budget leaders have reached a two year deal to prevent future shutdowns and provide some relief to sequestration cuts. House and Senate Budget Committee Chairs Rep. Paul Ryan, R-WI, and Sen. Patty Murray, D-WA, announced that the deal funds the government for fiscal year (FY) 2014 at $1.012 trillion and FY 2015 at $1.014 trillion, and reduces the deficit by $40 billion in FY2014 and $20 billion in FY2015. The deal also provides some sequestration relief for discretionary and defense spending over the next two years, but extends the 2 percent across the board cut for Medicare providers through 2023.
Importantly, the package includes a .5 percent update for Medicare physician payments through March 31, 2014, thus preventing the 24 percent cut in physician payments from being implemented on Jan. 1, 2014. The House is scheduled to vote on the package before they adjourn on Dec. 13 with the Senate to follow.
“SGR Repeal and Medicare Beneficiary Access Act of 2013” Mark Up
Meanwhile, the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means Committees are scheduled to mark up the “SGR [sustainable growth rate formula] Repeal and Medicare Beneficiary Access Act of 2013.” The House Ways and Means Committee made some changes to their initial proposal, including:
- Updating physician payments by .5 percent until 2017.
- Offering compensation to physicians who provide data to CMS on misvalued codes.
- Allowing physicians to review data on themselves before it is made public
- Stating that any guideline or quality measure cannot be construed as a standard of care.
While the AGA is pleased that the committee made some changes to the original draft, we remain concerned that the payment updates do not keep pace with medical inflation or reflect practice costs. We recognize that the SGR must be repealed and that this may be organized medicine’s best chance at receiving a permanent fix, however, we need to ensure that a policy is implemented that will work for physicians. We are hopeful that gastroenterologists will have the tools that they need to survive and thrive under a new value-based system that rewards physicians based on quality and outcomes.
We will continue to keep our members updated on many of these moving legislative pieces and will continue to advocate on behalf of the profession of gastroenterology.