Effort to Repeal SGR Continues With Support for 'Dear Colleague' Letter

October 04, 2011 05:35 pm News Staff

As part of a targeted grassroots effort to convince the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, also known as the "supercommittee," to repeal the sustainable growth rate, or SGR, formula as part of its final legislation, the Academy has sent a Speak Out Alert to its key contact members urging them to tell their House members to sign a "Dear Colleague" letter that calls on the supercommittee to repeal the SGR.

[Letter: Repeal the SGR, Safguard Medicare patients' access to care]

Rep. Allyson Schwartz, D-Pa., is circulating the Dear Colleague letter in the House. The letter calls on the supercommittee to stabilize current payment rates to ensure beneficiary access in the near term and to set out a clear path for comprehensive payment reform.

In a prepared statement, AAFP President Glen Stream, M.D., M.B.I., of Spokane, Wash., said the Schwartz letter is "important in helping ensure that patients can see their doctors."

"We need to make sure our patients can get the right care from the right health care professional at the right time," said Stream. "The SGR threatens the financial viability of the physician practices most needed by patients."

Congress has intervened repeatedly during the past several years to block impending physician payment cuts called for by the SGR. Physicians face a nearly 30 percent cut in the Medicare payment rate on Jan. 1 unless Congress acts to block it.

Stream pointed out that for the past several years, "physicians have coped with annual, semi-annual -- sometimes monthly -- threats of serious cuts in payment for service." That, in turn, has precluded physicians from engaging in "long-term planning that is necessary to transform to patient-centered medical homes. If we want a high-quality, efficient health care system, we must resolve the SGR issue."

Congress created the bipartisan supercommittee to develop a plan to achieve federal budget cuts and possible revenue increases. If the government fails to enact the committee's recommendations by Dec. 23, across-the-board cuts totaling $1.2 trillion will be triggered automatically.

In the Speak Out Alert, the AAFP is asking its key contacts to join the AAFP and Schwartz "as we call on other members of the House of Representatives to urge the supercommittee to act now and repeal the flawed sustainable growth rate in Medicare's physician payment formula."

If enough House members sign the letter, it will be sent to the 12 members of the supercommittee.