Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) said on Wednesday that he will submit legislation this week to delay for one year the implementation of the sustainable growth rate formula (SGR). Without the delay, or other action, physicians face a 28% cut in Medicare reimbursements in January 2013.
Burgess made the announcement at a meeting of the House Energy and Commerce Committee called to discuss innovations to reform Medicare physician payments.
He said that the SGR delay would allow Congress to get past the uncertainties presented by the upcoming elections, the expiration of existing tax policy, the extension of unemployment insurance, as well as potential debt limit debates.
The SGR formula was put in place as part of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 to help control Medicare spending. It soon became apparent that significant cuts in physician reimbursements would be required to help reduce spending but since 2003 Congress has routinely declined to make those cuts.
In 2011, SGR was the focus of the debt reduction debate. Although stakeholders and others supported its repeal, Congress instead enacted a series of short-term extensions before finally agreeing in early 2012 to delay the SGR implementation through 2012.
Although Burgess didn't specifically mention the lame duck status of Congress after the November election, he did characterize December as "an uncomfortable month for so many reasons. We know we aren't likely to end up doing something that provides long-term relief with a long term replacement for the SGR by Dec. 31."