Groundhog Day for Medicare ‘Doc Fix’

groundhog_dayAnother year, another last-minute “doc fix” by Congress. Am I the only one starting to feel a little like Bill Murray in the 1993 comedy Groundhog Day?

On March 31, just one day before Medicare payments to doctors would have been slashed by 24 percent, Congress approved a short-term patch to delay the payment cuts for another year.

This is the 17th time in 11 years that Congress has had to delay the Medicare reimbursement cuts created by SGR (the Sustainable Growth Rate formula), a doctor payment system created by Congress in 1997. The constant threats of large cuts have caused America’s 50 million Medicare beneficiaries to worry that their doctors may no longer be able to see them.

While AARP is pleased that Congress passed a short-term fix last month, the bottom line is: Medicare patients and doctors shouldn’t have to deal with this uncertainty so often.

It’s time to find a long-term solution. Medicare beneficiaries need a stable, predictable reimbursement system that will encourage their doctors and providers to deliver high-quality care.

AARP supports a permanent repeal of SGR and a move toward a reimbursement system that promotes quality and value. AARP also believes any solution should be achieved without shifting costs onto beneficiaries through higher cost-sharing or reduced benefits.

Reports last month that congressional leaders were close to reaching a bipartisan compromise on a permanent fix were encouraging. While their failure is disappointing, AARP is hopeful these negotiations have laid the groundwork needed to reach a long-term solution before the short-term patch expires next year … and we experience déjí  vu all over again.

Photo Copyright: Sony Pictures