Supercommittee's Failure to Address SGR Repeal Endangers Health Care

Academy Vows to Continue Push for Fundamental Payment Reform

November 21, 2011 08:55 pm News Staff

The announcement that the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, also known as the "supercommittee," failed in its efforts to reach a budget compromise drew a swift and frustrated response from the AAFP.

The supercommittee's failure to recommend a repeal of the deeply flawed formula used to determine Medicare's payments to physicians has "condemned millions of elderly and disabled Americans to ongoing health insecurity," said AAFP President Glen Stream, M.D., M.B.I., of Spokane, Wash., in a statement from the Academy.

"Their inaction allows the flawed sustainable growth rate, or SGR, (formula) that determines Medicare physician payment to continue," said Stream.

Without congressional intervention, physicians face a 27.4 percent reduction in Medicare physician payment on Jan. 1. Moreover, the failure of the supercommittee to recommend sufficient deficit reduction measures will trigger another Medicare payment reduction in 2013, according to Stream.

He called on Congress to act swiftly to block the scheduled cut in the Medicare payment rate and to repeal the SGR formula. He also urged Congress to stabilize Medicare payments with a five-year Medicare payment schedule and to "implement a payment system that values quality of care over quantity of care."

Stream accused the supercommittee of "dropping the ball" by failing to reach a consensus, saying "this is no way to address the federal budget deficit."

"Nor is it the way to serve their constituents," Stream added. "Allowing the Medicare physician payment issue to fester worsens the health insecurity of millions of elderly patients and military families."

During the past month, the AAFP has been working with members to target the supercommittee, as well as Congress, rallying member and congressional support via its Family Medicine Matters campaign for three key issues:

  • repeal of the SGR formula,
  • protection of graduate medical education funding, and
  • increased funding for Title VII health professions training grants.

In the past month, 2,164 AAFP members have sent 5,327 e-mails to Congress in support of these three issues.

"I am very proud of our members in being that engaged on important issues, and their willingness to take time out of their busy day of patient care to put so much energy and time in this advocacy effort on behalf of themselves and their patients," Stream told AAFP News Now.

The inability of the supercommittee to reach an agreement on a deficit reduction plan is a reflection of the complexity of the deficit issue itself and not a result of the advocacy efforts of AAFP members, he said.

"This just makes our work with the committees of jurisdiction in Congress that much more urgent," said Stream. "We are less than six weeks from seeing the impact of a 27.4 percent cut in Medicare physician payment. If that cut goes into effect, it would be truly disastrous for patients and the physicians who care for them."