Skilled nursing launches campaign to influence 'doc fix'

Skilled nursing facilities are launching a new campaign to avoid cuts and offer policy proposals ahead of Congress's debate over the next fix for Medicare doctor payments.

The American Health Care Association (AHCA), which represents nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other subacute care providers, is blanketing Washington in multimedia advertisements starting Monday to shore up its position ahead of deliberations.

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"As the doc fix fight heats up again this year, skilled nursing and rehab providers stand ready to help Congress find a permanent solution," said AHCA President Mark Parkinson in a statement.

"We have some ideas for a long-term fix, but another short-term patch shouldn’t cut our providers and potentially harm the over 3.5 million residents and patients we serve every year.

The current "doc fix" expires within three months, and various healthcare interests have already started jockeying to avoid footing the bill for the next payment patch.

In addition to radio, TV, online and social media advertisements, the AHCA is buying out ad space at Capitol South metro station for the month of February. The group will also hold Capitol Hill briefings and at least one fly-in for its members.

Their message plays up the effectiveness of skilled nursing in improving patient outcomes. The AHCA will also tout its own quality initiatives in negotiations.

The need for a "doc fix" comes from Medicare's flawed physician payment formula, the sustainable growth rate (SGR). Unless the system is patched regularly, doctors will face a reimbursement cut of roughly 20 percent.

Last year, Congress came close to permanently repealing the SGR but could not decide how to settle the reform's price tag of roughly $140 billion. Lawmakers ultimately passed the 17th consecutive patch to the system since 2003, which expires March 31.