Heart societies offer framework for physician pay

The American College of Cardiology, the Society of Thoracic Surgeons, the Heart Rhythm Society, the Society of Nuclear Cardiologists and scores of other national and state medical societies presented a set of principles to Congress to help guide policy that affects physician payment. The principles were outlined in a letter to the Senate Committee on Finance.

The societies emphasized the need for payment reform that eliminates the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula used in the Medicare payment system. “The first step in moving to a higher performing Medicare program must be the elimination of the SGR formula,” they wrote. “The status quo is bad for patients, physicians and taxpayers.”

The societies encouraged Congress to move away from the SGR to Medicare payment models that allow physicians to take charge in the delivery of patient care and that reward them for improvements in the quality of care. They called for a defined transition period between the repeal of the SGR and the implementation of a nationwide system. Among their recommendations:

  • Invest in physician infrastructure to support the delivery of care and payment reform;
  • Provide payment updates that reflect the cost of services, quality initiatives and cost-containment strategies;
  • Reward incremental change during the transition;
  • Reward physicians for achieving cost savings;
  • Give physicians opportunities to choose payment models that suit their practices and patients;
  • Encourage collaborative care;
  • Credit society initiatives as delivery improvements and recognize the profession’s role in defining and measuring quality; and
  • Provide exemptions and options in situations where reform constitutes a hardship.