A bipartisan bill, H.R. 2, Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization ACT, would repeal the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula, which sets a cap on physician spending, and would revamp payment of physicians under Medicare. On March 26, 2015 the U.S. House overwhelmingly (392-37) voted in favor of the bill, also known as SGR replacement bill. The Senate will vote on the bill after recess.
The legislation was introduced by Speaker John Boehner (R, Ohio) and Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi (D, California). It would repeal the SGR Medicare formula that imposes the imminent threat of cuts to Medicare providers and would eliminate the need for Congress to set payment rates for Medicare physicians annually – a process known as “doc fix”. Since 2003, Congress has overridden the cuts imposed by SGR on 17 occasions, and the most recent override ends on March 31, 2015. If Congress does not take action, Medicare payments to physicians will be cut by 21% on April 1, 2015.
The H.R. Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization ACT will
- Repeal the Sustainable Growth Rate Formula;
- Ensure a 5-year period of annual increases of 0.5% in payments to physicians;
- Set up a two-tier payment system that incentivizes a shift to value-based payment systems that reward physicians who meet performance thresholds and make care-coordination efforts for patients with chronic conditions;
- Incentivize transition to alternative payment models (APMs) by requiring that physicians receive at least 25% of their revenue through an APM in 2018-2019, with an increased threshold overtime; and
- Extend funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and community health centers for another two years.
These changes are estimated to cost approximately $200 billion, and $70 billion of that cost would be offset by two major program changes: (1) higher premiums for higher-income Medicare beneficiaries and (2) reduced governmental spending on supplemental insurance plans, increasing out-of-pocket costs for Medigap recipients.