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Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Holds SGR Replacement Hearing

May 10, 2013—The House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee held a May 7 hearing titled “Developing a Viable Medicare Physician Payment Policy.”  The hearing was the third this year in a series focused on Congress’s continued efforts to repeal the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula and transform the Medicare physician payment system to one focused on paying for quality and efficiency [see Washington Highlights, Feb. 15 and March 1].

Health Subcommittee Chair Kevin Brady (R-Texas) opened the hearing explaining the recurring theme throughout the committee’s work has been the need to repeal the SGR, stating, “The first hearing was on redesigning the Medicare benefit package to make it more rational and responsive to seniors and Medicare patients. In that discussion we heard that solving the SGR problem is key to maintaining a strong Medicare program.  The second hearing was on the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission recommendations for improving the various payment systems.  In that discussion we heard that now is the time to repeal the SGR. I couldn’t agree more with both of these sentiments.  We need to repeal the SGR so that seniors continue to have access to their local doctors.”  He added, “The SGR is a major contributor to an unhealthy system ― and it needs to change this year. We need to reform the physician payment system to reward high-quality care to patients and value to health care.”

Acknowledging the bipartisan nature of the hearing, Ranking Member Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) agreed with the chairman, saying, “The sustainable growth rate formula is fundamentally broken.  As Congress acted to override the formula’s cuts, the hole has been dug deeper and deeper.  Let’s be honest. No one ever expects that we’ll cut 30 percent, but the uncertainty promotes profound discomfort.  It is patently unfair to ask physicians and others paid under the fee schedule to live with the Sword of Damocles hanging over their heads.”

In his testimony, David Hoyt, M.D., executive director, American College of Surgeons, commented on the House Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce committees’ recent request for feedback on their revised SGR repeal and reform proposal [see Washington Highlights, April 19].  Dr. Hoyt agreed with the chair and ranking member, stating, “We agree with the Joint Proposal that a full repeal of the SGR and a period of payment stability are prudent first steps in reforming the system while longer term reforms are developed, tested, and phased in over several years.”


Len Marquez
Director, Government Relations
Telephone: 202-862-6281


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