Today is an historic day. After nearly 20 years, Congress has voted to repeal the deeply flawed sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula. As a result of coordinated advocacy by medical societies such as SCAI and grassroots efforts by physicians, including many SCAI members, the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 was passed by the Senate and the President has said he will sign it into law. Now the United States can move toward a system with potential to appropriately value the work of physicians and help ensure that Medicare beneficiaries have access to care.
For most of my career repealing the SGR has been an advocacy priority for SCAI and almost every medical organization. Over the years, we have communicated with countless Congressional representatives on both sides of the aisle, including during annual Congressional Fly-in events, and we have urged you to add your voice to numerous calls to action. We have come close to repeal so many times, but have always had to settle for a patch that postponed across-the-board physician fee cuts for a few months or a year.
Today, that changes. No more falling just a few votes short. No more patches. We are on our way to implementing a very different system.
Here’s what will happen next, after the President signs the bill:
- Instead of the SGR-mandated across-the-board 21 percent fee cut, physicians’ fees will increase 0.5 percent this year and every year through 2019.
- CMS’s current efforts to improve quality of care through electronic health records and performance reporting will be replaced by a new Merit-based Incentive Payment (MIP) program.
- Policymakers will begin developing alternative payment models for patient care.
Just as today closes the book on the SGR, it also opens a new chapter for the U.S. healthcare system, one in which we must be fully engaged. This will mean working closely with Medicare officials and Congress to ensure that the new payment models reward the delivery of high-quality care that will help our patients live longer and feel better. SCAI is well-positioned to participate in these efforts. This is a new type of call to action for us as members: We all need to pay attention to the proposals that will be forthcoming, participate in discussions to ensure they are in our patients’ best interests, and support SCAI and other advocates who are representing us.
I’ll close with my thanks to all of you who have helped to advocate for a better system than the SGR. This includes everyone who responded to SCAI’s most recent calls to action as well as to the many efforts of the past two decades. Thanks also to SCAI’s Advocacy Committee members and staff who helped draft language that has been incorporated into the new law. Finally, we thank the many members who have supported SCAI-PAC, which has provided resources for SCAI’s robust advocacy efforts. Today’s success is the legacy of teamwork and perseverance by the whole House of Medicine. I am proud of our Society’s contribution.
Contact me anytime at president@SCAI.org.
Charles Chambers, MD, FSCAI
SCAI President, 2014-15