Blog | Wednesday, October 21, 2009

QD: News Every Day--SGR cuts stalled

ACP Internist's daily digest of news and events continues with more on SGR cuts, and one physician who reformed health care in Oregon from the inside, as a legislator and later as governor.

SGR cuts
Legislation to permanently fix the annual threat of sustainable growth rate (SGR) cuts to Medicare physician payment formula has stalled. Some legislators balked on voting for it because the $247 billion price tag over 10 years wasn't offset elsewhere. Permanently ending annual SGR cuts were part of a quid pro quo deal between doctor's groups and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid; eliminate the SGR in exchange for supporting overall health reform. The money would hold reimbursement where it is until Congress can create a better way to reimburse for Medicare.

Since political debate involves a lot of name-calling, one legislator compared the American Medical Association's position to prostitution for its support. The AMA promptly got all dolled up and released 22 "patient access hot spots" nationwide that the organization claims highlights the impact of Medicare cuts. The AMA analyzed state-level data on five access measures and declared hot spots are based on their ranking in the top 15 of at least two of five measures of access:
-- practicing physicians per 1,000 Medicare beneficiaries,
-- Medicare beneficiaries below 150% of the federal poverty level,
-- estimated underserved population living in primary care health professional shortage areas,
-- hospital emergency room visits per 1,000 population, and
-- percentage who hadn't seen a doctor in the past 12 months because of cost.

In case you missed it ...
A physician enacted health care reform in Oregon, first as president of the state's Senate and then as its Governor. The Oregon Health Plan prioritized medical services by value and the number of services covered was determined by how much money the legislature appropriated. It was radical and it worked. Kaiser Health News profiles the physician.

Meanwhile, ACP governors from Nebraska and North Dakota and a member from Green Bay, Wisc. chimed in their support for health care reform.