Facing yet another Medicare payment cut of more than 20 percent beginning April 1, on March 26, 2015, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved, by a vote of 392 to 37, legislation that would repeal the flawed Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula used to calculate Medicare reimbursements for physicians. In addition to the SGR repeal, the measure fully funds the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for an additional two years (through September 30, 2017). The bill, H.R. 2, the “Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act,” provides annual physician payment updates of 0.5 percent from 2015 through 2019 during the transition to the new Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS), which will assess performance of eligible professionals in four categories (quality, resource use, meaningful use of electronic health records, and clinical practice). Participation in ACEP’s Qualified Clinical Data Registry (QCDR) will be a critical element of fully participating in MIPS or other alternative payment models. More information about the bill is available on the “Advocacy” section of ACEP’s website.
During the past two weeks, ACEP and 47 of its chapters joined more than 700 medical associations urging House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), and the U.S. Congress as a whole, to repeal SGR; we hosted a national teleforum call with hundreds of emergency physician members to brief them on the status of the SGR repeal legislation; and ACEP members sent personal messages to their members of Congress urging repeal in response to our “Call for Action.”
Unfortunately, the Senate failed to consider the legislation early this morning, following a marathon “vote-a-rama” on fiscal year 2016 budget amendments, before adjourning for two weeks. Senate Democrats wanted a chance to consider several amendments to the House-approved bill, but Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) did not agree to that request, instead stating he would work with Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) during the recess to settle on a pathway forward as soon as the Senate returns on April 13, 2015. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has indicated that it will hold claims through April 14 to give Congress time to act.
Although we are very disappointed the Senate failed to act before leaving town, we remain optimistic that, after fighting this battle for more than 12 years, we will finally rid ourselves of the flawed SGR permanently. We are calling for the Senate to act expeditiously as soon as they return and seize this opportunity to enact real, meaningful change in the Medicare program. Visit the ACEP Grassroots Advocacy Center to send a message to your Senators today.