The SGR Lives, For Now

Elyas Bakhtiari, for HealthLeaders Media , October 22, 2009

Similarly, S.1776 was good as far as interventions go, but Congress is still missing the underlying "poor health" of the current physician reimbursement system. It's the fee-for-service payment model, which rewards quantity over quality, that is driving a good chunk of healthcare costs, and that system remains intact.

To their credit, reform advocates in Washington have talked about the importance of changing the fundamentals of physician reimbursement to better reward quality. They've also talked about the importance of rewarding patient behavior changes to get at core health problems like obesity. But they haven't included major solutions to either in the bills.

Reform legislation in the House can still prevent the 21% cut and kill the SGR formula for good, but it also stops short of offering a compelling replacement.

"We'll take this up again when we finish healthcare, and we'll have a multiple-year fix for this," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said yesterday after S. 1776 failed. "Right now, we'll only have a one-year fix."

Meanwhile, Steve is lying on the operating table, waiting for January 1.

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Elyas Bakhtiari is a freelance editor for HealthLeaders Media.

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