Published 1/1/2015
Elizabeth Fassbender

Physicians Redouble Efforts to Have SGR Repealed

AAOS schedules actual, virtual “fly-in” next month

Elizabeth Fassbender

One of the last actions taken by the 113th Congress was to pass a $1.1 trillion budget deal that closely averted another government shutdown. Although that measure included some positive provisions for orthopaedics—including funding for the peer-reviewed orthopaedic research program, additional funding for the National Institutes of Health, and reduced funding for the Independent Payment Advisory Board—it did not address issues such as the repeal of the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula. That will be left to the 114th Congress, which officially convenes this month, with both the Senate and the House under Republican control.

With that shift, the physician community hopes to see a reopening of the debate on repealing and replacing the SGR formula—and a fast track on action. The current SGR patch is scheduled to expire on March 31, 2015, and unless Congress enacts another temporary fix or addresses a permanent solution, physicians could face a 21 percent cut in Medicare reimbursements.

Almost, but not quite…
Congress made some progress toward a permanent SGR fix in 2014, including drafting bipartisan, bicameral legislation, The SGR Repeal and Medicare Provider Payment Modernization Act of 2014 (HR4014/S2000). That measure represented the most significant step yet toward replacing the SGR formula and was based on bipartisan legislation unanimously approved by three separate jurisdictional legislative committees—the House Committees on Energy & Commerce and Ways & Means and the Senate Finance Committee. Medical associations, including the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), provided significant input that helped shape the legislation. Ultimately, however, the bill did not pass because Congress could not agree on how to pay for it.

Because the 114th Congress includes a newly Republican Senate, as well as reorganized committee structures and updated priorities, it is possible that legislators will want to re-examine the SGR policy that was agreed to last year. However, the AAOS, together with medical associations and the physician community, is urging Congress to continue the progress already made toward replacing the flawed formula. It is imperative that the 114th Congress enact a permanent fix to Medicare’s flawed SGR formula no later than the March 31 deadline. The repeal and the replacement of the current formula is vital to ensuring Medicare’s sustainability and improving care delivery for generations to come.

Make your voice heard
On Feb. 4, physician leaders from across the country and from dozens of medical associations will converge on Washington, D.C., to stress the importance of passing a permanent SGR fix. In addition, physicians can participate in a “virtual” march on Capitol Hill, using email, phone calls, Twitter, and Facebook.

To participate and help flood congressional offices with the voices of orthopaedic surgeons, call your member of Congress during the week of Feb. 1 or visit http://advocacy.aaos.org/sgr to send an email. You can also send a message on Twitter and Facebook. Follow @AAOSAdvocacy on Twitter at https://twitter.com/aaosadvocacy and watch for Advocacy Now articles for additional updates. For more information, contact Catherine Boudreaux at boudreaux@aaos.org

Elizabeth Fassbender is the communications specialist in the AAOS office of government relations. She can be reached at fassbender@aaos.org