WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, issued the following statement after Senate approval of a fix to the physician reimbursement structure under Medicare or Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR):
“The current way that we reimburse physicians under Medicare is broken. We have had 16 temporary patches to the SGR system that have cost us $153 billion – more than the cost of a permanent fix. It has created uncertainty for the medical community and uncertainty for patients as to whether they think that their doctor will be there to treat them for their illnesses. We have to fix this problem. It expired today, March 31, so we had to take action. But with all the progress made and hard work to find a bipartisan, long-term solution to this problem, it is incredibly disappointing to have yet another ‘kick-the-can’ moment for SGR. I recognize that this latest patch, which prevents 24% cuts from taking effect and preserves seniors’ access to outpatient therapy services, extends through next March. But I would urge my colleagues to keep working now to come to agreement on a proposal that we can move through the Senate and the House with broad bipartisan support as soon as possible. We have a bipartisan proposal that would permanently replace the SGR, rewarding physicians for taking good care of their patients by managing their care in an effective but cost-efficient way.
“There has never been a better time to repeal the SGR. First, there is bipartisan agreement that the SGR is a flawed metric. This sort of agreement is hard to find when we talk about health care around here. Now that this fix removes the pressure of a looming deadline, we should capitalize on this opportunity, and try to get something done. f repealing the SGR has dropped dramatically. The CBO has said that repeal will cost less than 50% of what was originally estimated. If one of the arguments against repealing the SGR was the high cost involved, that argument just became a lot less convincing. It is foolish to have a law that we always ignore. We should seize the opportunity and enact meaningful reform that will make physician reimbursement more efficient, economical, and equitable.”