2 Wildcards for Physicians in Early 2014

Jacqueline Fellows, for HealthLeaders Media , January 2, 2014

The fate of the loathsome sustainable growth rate formula is one of two big unknowns that will have a large impact on how doctors are reimbursed in the New Year.

It is an easy exercise to begin 2014 by reviewing what happened the previous 12 months and then try to plan for a more appropriate path going forward.

That task, however, is nearly impossible for the tumultuous healthcare industry, especially for physicians. They won't get a true indication of what 2014 and their longer-term future will be like until the end of March, when we hit two key deadlines:

  1. The three-month Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) patch expires
  2. HIX enrollment ends nationwide

The final number attached to both of these will largely determine how physicians practice in the remaining months of 2014 and beyond.

Last of the SGR Patches?
The bipartisanship on repealing the SGR in 2013 was not surprising. The threat to cut provider reimbursement has long been dogged by both Republicans and Democrats. But there is real hope that the band-aid box used to avert the cuts in years past will finally be put away with a draft proposal that is, in the words of American Medical Association President Ardis Dee Hoven, MD, "bipartisan, bicameral, and … enthusiastically supported".

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