ACP commends Congress for preserving patient access by stopping scheduled Medicare SGR cuts

(Washington) — The American College of Physicians (ACP) today commended Congress for taking bipartisan action to preserve access for patients enrolled in Medicare and TriCare by stabilizing physician payments through 2011. The College noted, though, that the incoming 112th Congress will need to enact legislation to provide longer-term stability in payments and lead to repeal of the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula.

The legislation, passed unanimously by the Senate yesterday and passed by an overwhelming majority in the House of Representatives today, will avert a nearly 25 percent Medicare and TriCare payment cut scheduled to become effective Jan. 1. The cut would have resulted from the flawed SGR formula, which has resulted in scheduled cuts in payments to physicians each year since 2002. President Obama has expressed his support for the legislation and he is expected to sign it within days.

“Patients now will have greater confidence that physicians will be able to provide the care they need through 2011,” said Robert G. Luke, MD, MACP, chair of the ACP Board of Regents. “Congress has taken an important step in providing equity and stability for America’s seniors and military families. It is especially commendable that this was done on a bipartisan basis and with support of President Obama.”

The decision to provide stable payments through end of next year is a welcome change from the chaos created during the past year because Congress couldn’t agree on anything more than temporary, stop-gap measures. Four times in 2010, Congress passed reprieves as brief as one month to stave off cuts before they could take effect, with some being provided retroactively. The most recent reprieve, which was for one month, was enacted just hours before the 23 percent cut would have gone into effect on Dec. 1.

“Now, it is up to the 112th Congress to work with physicians and other stakeholders to develop bipartisan legislation to provide long-term stability in payments and lead to a permanent solution,” concluded Dr. Luke.

The American College of Physicians (www.acponline.org) is the largest medical specialty organization and the second-largest physician group in the United States. ACP members include 130,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students. Internists specialize in the prevention, detection, and treatment of illness in adults. Follow ACP on Twitter (www.twitter.com/acpinternists) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/acpinternists).



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