Changing the Medicare physician reimbursement formula so that it more accurately mirrors the cost of care is a top legislative concern for the ACR this year. The reimbursement scale is currently calculated using the sustainable growth rate (SGR), which is based on the gross domestic product and is irrelevant to medical care. The formula has steadily decreased physician reimbursement since its inception.
Congress has acted to maintain physician reimbursement by having minimal to no reimbursement increases the past several years, delaying the predicted 4% to 5% yearly decreases. This year the expected cut is estimated at 10% unless Congress acts. It is critical to create a permanent long-term fix for this system to ensure appropriate reimbursement and adequate access to care for patients. Replacing this flawed system and finding a long-term solution is the legislative priority of the ACR along with the American Medical Association (AMA).
The AMA is the leading force on Medicare reform in Washington, D.C. Over the past three years, AMA advocates have prevented devastating reimbursement cuts. Although the AMA and other physician organizations have prevented these cuts, it is essential that physicians continue to work together to establish a long-term fix and avoid continually bandaging a broken system.
The ACR collaborates with the AMA and other state and specialty societies to address this issue through lobbying, frequent conference calls, and AMA-prepared letters that allow multiple groups to sign on. Recently, the ACR signed on to an AMA letter to Congress explaining some of the problems with the SGR and suggesting a permanent fix.
The Congressional Budget Office is predicting a 10% reimbursement cut for 2008, which would have a devastatingly negative effect on physicians and their patients. The ACR and the AMA are encouraging Congress to repeal the SGR formula and replace it with a formula that provides annual updates that reflect increases in physician practice costs.
Repairing the SGR formula is imperative to ensure that physicians will be fairly compensated and that patients will have access to appropriate care. The ACR and AMA encourage you to be an active advocate and contact Congress to express your concerns about this flawed formula. There is strength in numbers.
For more information on grassroots advocacy or the SGR, contact Aiken Hackett, government affairs specialist, or Kristin Wormley, director of government affairs, at (404) 633-3777.