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MEDICAL ECONOMICS


Stabilizing Medicare fees Burgess seeks one-year extension


U.S. Rep. Michael C. Burgess, MD (R-Texas), filed legislation in July to extend Medicare physician payment rates for one year. He said the bill, HR 6142, would ensure continued access for Medicare beneficiaries and TRICARE recipients. “By providing one more year of stability, we make a critical,


initial step toward ridding ourselves of this problematic and inadequate payment system,” said Representative Burgess, vice chair of the House Energy and Com- merce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health and chair of the Con- gressional Health Care Caucus. “Allowing for a one-year exten- sion now will prove early to our seniors, physicians, and health care providers that they are at the forefront of our minds and our legislative agenda, and we will not leave them uncertain about how the upcoming ‘fiscal cliff’ will impact their care.” Unless Congress acts before the end of the year, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will cut overall payments to physicians by 27 percent on Jan. 1 because of the Sustain- able Growth Rate formula (SGR), a formula Congress adopted in 1997. Its supporters


“Along with


many excesses and constrictions in the law, IPAB represents the


worst of what is envisioned under the health care law.”


Rep. Michael C. Burgess, MD


said it would stop Medicare spending on physicians from increasing faster than the economy as a whole. Every year since 2003, Congress stepped in at the last minute to avert drastic payment cuts and replace them will small increases. “As numerous fiscal deadlines create a potential collision at the end of this year, kicking the Sustainable Growth Rate pro- vision of legislative relief down the road


is dangerous. In order to guarantee a substantive, long-term plan, guaranteeing proper services for Medicare beneficiaries, doctors need to first be provided with payment certainty for 2013,” Dr. Burgess said. “Despite Congress’ continual enactment of last-minute leg- islation to prevent these cuts from going into effect over the last few years, 11th-hour legisla- tive maneuvers should no longer take the place of a stable and secure solution,” said Dr. Bur- gess. “I have never seen so much progress made on this issue than this year, but Congress must have more time to work with stake- holders on crafting a permanent replacement. While this legisla- tion will provide a one-year ex- tension, Congress must continue to work toward a permanent fix that will solve the issue once and for all, and this bill provides that time.”


Another threat to physicians’


Medicare payments is the In- dependent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), a 15-member pan- el appointed by the president that would recommend cuts in Medi- care payment fees to physicians if federal spending on health care reaches certain levels. Creation of


the board is part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act the Supreme Court recently upheld. This spring, the House of Representatives acted to abolish


IPAB by passing HR 5, the Preserving Access to Healthcare Act, by a vote of 223 to 181. However, news reports say it is un- likely Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will ever call the bill to the Senate floor for a vote. And even if he did and it passed, the reports say, President Obama would veto it. Representative Burgess said that the IPAB “encompasses all that is wrong with the Affordable Care Act,” which he said


September 2012 TEXAS MEDICINE 37


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