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    Congress, White House pressing for SGR repeal

    Debate continues over how to finance permanent reform

    Bob GattyBob GattyWashingtonHave the stars finally become aligned in such a way that Congress resolves the perennial Medicare physician fee fiasco? The signs seem to point that way, and that certainly would be good news for urologists.

    In fact, by the time you read this, it may already have happened. But then, haven’t we said that before?

    Just in case it does, though, let’s put into perspective some of the developments that have taken place over the last few months.

    Support gaining for repeal bill

    First, key House and Senate committees late last year agreed on legislation to repeal the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula, but they could not agree on a way to pay the estimated $144 billion 10-year cost. However, the bill was endorsed by much of the medical community and has since gained increased support.

    Then, after the new Republican-controlled Congress was sworn in, the first hearing of the 114th Congress by the House Energy & Commerce Health Subcommittee, held Jan. 21 and 22, focused on “A Permanent Solution to the SGR: The Time is Now.”

    Once again, there was universal agreement by witnesses and both Republican and Democratic lawmakers that the SGR must be repealed and that another “doc fix” patch should be avoided. That patch would be required by March 31 to avoid a 21% Medicare payment cut.

    But, once again, there was less-than-universal agreement on how to pay for it, with some committee members (Democrats) even suggesting that it could be done without specifically enacting “pay-fors.”

    “If members are serious about seizing this historic moment to pass SGR reform, as a purely practical matter, for the bill to pass the House of Representatives and Senate, it must include sensible offsets,” declared Subcommittee Chairman Joseph Pitts (R-PA).

    Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), chairman of the full committee, cautioned against framing discussions on “merely budgets or beneficiaries.” In fact, he said, the “out-of-control” Medicare budget is on the “fast track to insolvency.” That, he added, threatens long-term access to care for seniors who depend on the program.

    NEXT: 2016 budget also called for SGR repeal

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    Bob Gatty
    Bob Gatty, a former congressional aide, covers news from Washington for Urology Times.


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