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Updated SGR repeal legislation likely DOA

Mar 17, 2014

Legislation that would permanently repeal Medicare's Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) may be in jeopardy after Republicans inserted language that would delay the Affordable Care Act's mandate requiring that all individuals obtain health insurance, NPR reported.

The House passed a bill in a 238-181 vote that repeals SGR and replaces the fee-for-service model with quality-based rewards, but now includes the Republican-created five-year delay, which experts said will mean a veto from President Barack Obama if the bill passes the Senate, MedPage Today reported.

As of now, doctors across the country who participate in Medicare face a 24 percent cut April 1, which the legislation meant to correct with payment increases over the next five years. The issue stems from the $138 billion cost increase, and a Republican effort to use money from the ACA to pay for the costs, according to a Reuters article.

Washington politics has doctors around the country fed up and frustrated, including the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, especially after Congress announced the bipartisan deal agreement in early February.  "Just last month, both parties worked in a bicameral process to develop good-faith consensus and were historically close to repealing the dysfunctional payment system and improving healthcare for America's senior citizens. It would be a shame for lawmakers to have done all of that hard work only to have it overcome by partisan politics over budgetary issues," AMA President Ardis Dee Hoven said in a statement after the news broke.

Congress will most likely postpone a permanent solution into the next Congress in January 2015, which could mean starting from scratch if Republicans win the Senate majority in November, while doctors would most likely see a nine-month patch that would push back the April 1 pay cut, Reuters reported.  "It's a sad state of affairs," Thomas Barber, M.D., a lobbyist for the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, told Reuters. "To see something that was supported by both parties get shanghaied into the partisan politics of the day is very frustrating."