For more than 12 years Congress has sought a long-term solution to the flawed sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula. Over this time, the SGR has become one of the most dreaded terms in healthcare policy. It has no friends and is widely regarded in a bipartisan manner as a “mistake” and “failed policy.” Yet Congress finds itself in a familiar place – struggling to pass a permanent repeal of a failed policy it largely abhors.

For several years the primary reason for not repealing the SGR was the lack of a suitable replacement. Believing that this concern had merit, our organizations worked with legislators of both parties in the House and the Senate to develop comprehensive payment reform. The resulting legislation not only repealed the SGR, but also put in place a pathway to a payment system that focused on the value and quality of care provided. This shift from “volume to value” has been a goal of lawmakers for the past decade and, together, we found a policy that achieved that goal. In 2013, three Congressional committees introduced this bipartisan and bicameral legislation and it promptly secured the unanimous support of all three committees. This is where familiar pitfalls of budget offsets tripped up our journey and, in March 2014, Congress enacted a one year “doc fix” – the 17th such short-term extension enacted over the past 12 years.

Our organizations, collectively, represent more than 446,000 physicians. Our members practice in every state and provide care to millions of Medicare patients. As physicians, we are the foundation of our nation’s health care system and the economic stimulators of communities large and small. Most importantly, we are providers of care who realize the negative impact this failed SGR policy has on our health care system and the opportunities that lie ahead if we could only unshackle ourselves from the SGR boulder.

We reject the notion that a full repeal of the SGR is not possible or that the legislative path to ridding the Medicare program of this policy is too difficult. After 12 years, 17 patches, and $169 billion spent, there really are no alternatives to full repeal. It is the right thing to do for our seniors, the right thing to do for the Medicare program, the right thing to do for physicians and other health care providers, and the right thing to do for the country.

On behalf of the millions of Medicare patients we serve, our organizations and the 446,900 physicians we represent call on Congress to see and seek the achievable. We call on Congress to repeal the SGR and rid the Medicare program of this dreadful policy once and for all.

 

 

 

 

 

Warshaw, MD, FACS, is president of the American College of Surgeons; Juhasz, DO, is president of the American Osteopathic Association; Fleming, MD, FACP       is president of the American College of Physicians; and Wergin, MD, FAAFP, is president of the American Academy of Family Physicians.