B’nai B’rith International is pleased to see movement from Congress on a permanent solution for paying doctors who treat Medicare patients and ending more than a decade’s worth of “doc fixes.” Since 2003, 17 of these short term fixes have been enacted by Congress, most recently blocking 21.2 percent payment cuts to doctors of Medicare patients. A permanent fix is long overdue, and B’nai B’rith is encouraged by the bipartisan, political will to agree on this legislation.
The sustainable growth rate formula (SGR) is the system that is currently in place for determining payment rate cuts and has been a flawed payment approach from the beginning. Congress votes every year to “fix” the SGR to stop it from taking effect.
B’nai B’rith favors a permanent fix and a replacement of this formula that moves toward incentives for doctors to provide a higher quality of care.
While listening to the outpouring of ideas in resolving this issue, B’nai B’rith does have concerns we hope both chambers of Congress will consider when reviewing the plan and before voting on a permanent fix.
One of those concerns is the absence of “extenders” in the bill. Extenders have been vital parts of all previous doc fixes, blocking other SGR-based cuts and caps on Medicare benefits, and extending the life of programs that help lower-income beneficiaries with their out of pocket costs. Extenders have a huge impact on low-income patients and it’s unclear what the fate of those programs would be in the permanent fix. If they are left out of a permanent fix, they lose their best annual chance to be addressed.
Another issue B’nai B’rith has encountered is the inclusion of “pay-fors” in the bill that shift $30 billion in costs directly onto beneficiaries and will most likely result in higher premiums for all future beneficiaries. Instead of shifting this cost onto Medicare patients other avenues should be pursued, such as prescription drug savings which would accrue to the Medicare program if Medicare negotiated lower drug prices.
B’nai B’rith has long been adamant about Congress passing a permanent solution to the broken SGR. In December 2014 B’nai B’rith helped draft a letter from the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations advocating to Sens. Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell and Reps. John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi that very position. Click here to read the letter.
Image via Flickr