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ALERT: In Historic Vote, U.S. House Passes Bill that Would Abolish the Long-Derided SGR Formula

From the American Academy of Ophthalmology

Ophthalmology must tell Senate leaders it’s their responsibility now to put an end to physician payment cliffs!

Medicine witnessed a pivotal moment Thursday when the U.S. House of Representatives voted 392-37, to repeal the Medicare sustainable growth rate formula — one of the Academy’s top priorities and the focus of extraordinary advocacy efforts for more than a decade. 

While not perfect, the bill, if passed by the Senate would:

  • Remove the imminent threat of a 21 percent physician payment cut;
  • Guarantee a 5-year period of stable updates of 0.5 percent for all physicians with only positive incentives to transition to alternative payment models;
  • Preserve a value-based fee-for-service system for physicians who are unable to move to an alternative model; and
  • Provide much needed penalty relief from Medicare quality improvement programs starting in 2019.

House leaders are now putting intense pressure on the Senate to quickly approve the bill that has widespread bipartisan support before leaving for a two-week recess on Friday. President Barack Obama has said he would sign the bipartisan bill. 

Lawmakers are trying to avert a 21 percent payment cut to physicians that is scheduled to take effect April 1. To discourage Senate resistance, House leaders have repeatedly said that they do not intend to pass any kind of short-term doc fix. Unfortunately, Senate consideration of the bill is uncertain due to a dispute over a provision in the bill to only fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program for two years. Senate Democrats, however, are pushing for four years of funding. 

Your advocacy efforts are working. Academy members provided a strong push to get the legislation this far. You sent over 3,000 letters to Congress last week alone. Time is not on our side. Academy members have less than 24 hours to contact Senators and tell them to pass the SGR repeal legislation. Why medicine supports this legislation.

Repealing the SGR would allow physicians the opportunity to focus on other unresolved issues under a value-based performance system such as how to measure quality performance appropriately and meaningfully use electronic health records. The Academy’s IRIS™ Registry offers a unique tool to help solve these issues.