Docs to House members: Oppose payment patch

The American Medical Association (AMA) took the dramatic step of opposing a short-term "doc fix" bill Wednesday with just days left before a 24-percent pay cut is scheduled to hit Medicare physicians.

The AMA urged House members to oppose the legislation, set for a vote on Thursday, because it would extend the Medicare provider sequester, among other reasons.

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The group has been pushing Congress to act on a bipartisan, bicameral framework that would rid Medicare of the sustainable growth rate (SGR), the formula that has forced Congress to patch the program's payment system for a decade. It is the SGR that is ordering the 24-percent cut on April 1.

"Full repeal of the sustainable growth rate formula is the answer to strengthening the Medicare program, not another patch," AMA President Ardis Dee Hoven said in a statement.

Congress is closer than ever to overhauling the flawed Medicare payment system, but finding a way to cover the reform's $180 billion price tag is proving difficult, especially given the mounting election cycle.
 
The AMA said lawmakers should not give up, and should also not pass the House proposal because it would "undermine future passage of the permanent repeal framework."

"Further, it would perpetuate the program instability that now impede the development and adoption of healthcare delivery and payment innovation," Hoven stated.

Before the statement, Congress was expected to quietly pass another short-term fix before the weekend. No work is expected on Monday, when most lawmakers will be in their home states.

While the AMA wields power, it is unclear whether its position will prompt House leaders to pull their latest "doc fix" bill.