On Monday the Senate approved yet another one-year delay in implementing the scheduled 24% reduction in physician Medicare fees, and nobody’s happy about it. Last week even the AMA blasted the House for approving the delay.
How can a bill pass if nobody likes it? How can the AMA be unhappy about a delay in reducing physician fees?
To understand, you need to go back to 1997, when Congress enacted the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula, designed to slow the rise in Medicare spending. But although it managed to enact the SGR, Congress hasn’t been able to bring itself to let the formula-based physician fee reductions go into effect. The result? Every year since 1999, Congress has kicked the can down the road for one more year.
These annual extensions leave everyone unhappy. Congressmen and Senators who support the SGR are angry at the refusal to stick to the formula. Opponents of the SGR—and that includes the AMA—are tired of annual one-year fixes and want a permanent solution.