Heart, imaging groups join 700 societies in SGR plea

The letter is short and the list is long. Almost all of the major cardiovascular and imaging societies banded together with approximately 700 medical associations to implore Congress to repeal the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula.

The American College of Cardiology, the Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions, the Society of Thoracic Surgeons, the Heart Failure Society, the American College of Radiology, the American Society of Echocardiography, the American Society of Nuclear Cardiology, the Society for Cardiovascular Computed Tomography and state chapters joined ranks with the American Medical Association and groups representing numerous subspecialties in an appeal to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to finally put the SGR issue to rest.

The SGR formula would reduce Medicare physician fees by 21.1 percent if the patch instituted last year is allowed to expire on April 1. In the past, Congress has enacted temporary “doc fixes” to provide continued reimbursement to physicians but it has not tackled the problem of amending or repealing the SGR. The formula, which dates to 1997, was designed to keep Medicare costs in line. 

Last year lawmakers rallied strong support for a bipartisan, bicameral policy that repealed the SGR. Overall, medical associations favored it, too. But it snagged when lawmakers couldn’t agree on its financing.  

“That proposal would not only eliminate the dysfunctional SGR formula, but also create new pathways for physicians to participate in alternative payment and health care delivery models that emphasize value over volume and have the demonstrated potential of reducing long-term spending growth across the Medicare program,” according to the societies. “These policies represent the most significant structural reforms to the Medicare program in many years and replicate many of the opportunities for maximizing quality and reducing costs that are being successfully implemented in the private sector.”

Boehner and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) reportedly are collaborating to push passage of a $200 billion package that includes a provision to permanently eliminate the SGR.