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Congress plans to give doctors a raise

domeBy Brad Broker

Physicians are getting a raise!

Congress reached a deal today to replace the long-frustrating SGR with a 0.5 percent pay increase each year for five years to doctors for Medicare payments.

“It is time for action to repeal the SGR and establish a transition to a more stable Medicare physician payment policy to better serve America’s senior citizens,” said Ardis Dee Hoven M.D., president of the American Medical Association.

The SGR (sustainable growth rate) was enacted in 1997 to help ensure that the expense per Medicare beneficiary did not exceed the annual growth in GDP. However, each year Congress would hold Medicare payments hostage during budget talks and often enact an annual, temporary “doc fix” that left physicians uncertain of their participation in the program.

According to the bipartisan plan, the current system would be replaced with a more incentive-based program “that rewards providers who meet performance thresholds, improves care for seniors, and provides certainty for providers.”  In addition, docs could earn a 5 percent bonus if they “receive a significant portion of their revenue from an alternative payment method (APM) or patient centered medical home (PCMH).”

“Too much money has been wasted paying for duplicated, unnecessary care that does little to improve a patient’s outcome,” said Reid Blackwelder, MD, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. “By establishing alternative payment that supports comprehensive and coordinated care through models such as the patient-centered medical home, this legislation has paved a way for better care and less cost.”

Details of this plan, including exactly how Congress plans to pay for it, are incomplete. But it looks like a step ahead for docs.

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