House Approves Budget Deal with Three Month Doc Fix
The House approved a two year budget deal that provides $63 billion in sequestration relief to defense and discretionary programs. The bill passed despite opposition from conservative groups that were encouraging Republicans to oppose it. The compromise, which was lauded by Republican leaders as a return to “regular order,” prevents a future government shutdown and represents a bipartisan budget deal in a typically hostile political climate.
For gastroenterologists, the deal prevents the 24 percent cut in Medicare physician payments from being implemented on Jan. 1, 2014, and provides a .5 percent update for three months. However, the deal also extends the 2 percent sequestration cut to Medicare providers until 2023.
The House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee unanimously reported out their sustainable growth rate (SGR) reform proposals and they hope to move the legislation early next year. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has scored the Senate Finance proposal, which freezes physician payments for 10 years, at $148 billion over ten years. However, the Ways and Means Committee included a .5 percent update for three years, which will raise the cost of the legislation.
The AGA remains concerned that the freeze in payments does not reflect medical inflation or growing practice costs; we continue to express our concerns to committee staff on the updates. We are also concerned that the misvalued codes section does not preclude CMS from targeting codes that have already been resurveyed by the AMA relative value update committee (RUC) and CMS, thus making GI vulnerable to additional cuts. We certainly appreciate the work of the committee and know that we need to replace the broken physician payment system, but physicians need stability at a time when their regulatory burdens continue to grow.
Stay tuned for more updates on these critical issues facing gastroenterology. We will continue to fight every day for the future of GI research and practice on Capitol Hill.