Thursday, March 19, 2015

Lucy's Football

The Medicare SGR, for doctors, has been like Lucy’s football has been for Charlie Brown.  Each year Congress (“Lucy”) holds out the football (“SGR repeal”) for Charlie Brown (“doctors”) to try to kick it (over the goal line so SGR repeal becomes law), only to have Lucy (Congress) pull it away at the last minute, leaving Charlie Brown (the doctors) flat on their backs.

Could this time be different?  Could physicians actually help get SGR repeal passed by Congress, without Congress pulling it away at the last minute?

There is reason to hope.  Earlier today, the leadership of the House of Representatives introduced a bill to repeal the SGR and provide physicians with stable payments as they and the Medicare program transition to new payment models.  Negotiated between Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, the bill is based directly on a bipartisan, bicameral agreement reached last year between the Medicare authorizing committees; that bill never made it over the finish line, however, because of partisan disagreements over how to pay for it.  This time, the Republican and Democratic House leadership agreed on policies that would partially offset the cost of repeal.      

So this time is in fact different, because never before has there been such a bipartisan commitment, at the highest leadership levels of the House of Representatives, on SGR repeal and on paying for it.

The bill will be voted on as early as next Tuesday.  Passage by the House is not a slam dunk, since some Republicans in particular are concerned that the bill isn’t fully paid for.  Actually, as ACP pointed out in its statement of support for the bill, the legislation “is fiscally-responsible, by putting an end to the practice of Congress passing seemingly endless SGR 'patches' that each time has cost taxpayers tens of billions of dollars; 17 patches over the past 11 years that have neither achieved SGR repeal nor advanced real reform in physician payments.”  The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, deficit reduction true-believers themselves, agree that it is “Far better to end this cycle of fiscal deception and replace the SGR with more honest budgeting” than to insist that it be fully paid for (on paper).

Even if the House passes the bill, we still need the Senate to go along—but we first have to get it through the House.

 ACP needs the help of all of our members, your help, to get this bill passed. Click here to learn more about what you can do, so that this time, we actually get SGR repeal enacted, instead of ending flat on our backs again like Poor Old Charlie Brown.

Today’s question:  Have you called your representative to urge yes on SGR repeal?

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