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Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee Hold SGR Hearing

The House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee held its first hearing of the 114th Congress titled "A Permanent Solution to the SGR: The Time is Now." Witnesses included the American Medical Association (AMA), AARP, and a thoracic surgeon, among others.

The two-day hearing focused on how to pay for the bipartisan, bicameral legislation to permanently replace the sustainable growth rate (SGR) that the committee advanced last congress. ASPS has not fully supported this SGR replacement bill due to concerns about penalty and quality provisions contained in the legislation.

While lawmakers on both sides of the aisle argued for the repeal and replacement of the SGR formula, not much progress was made in finding a common ground for agreement on a package of offsets that would be acceptable to both parties. Some pay-fors suggested include combining the separate Part A and Part B deductibles into a single deductible, raising Medicare's age of eligibility, and increasing income-related premiums paid by high-income seniors.

However, there was not even unanimous agreement that SGR reform should be paid for. While Republican leadership insists that SGR replacement must be offset, Democratic lawmakers in opposition point to a recent case of legislation passed by Republicans that was not paid for (H.R. 30, the Save American Workers Act of 2015). Democratic lawmakers also expressed opposition toward any offset that would reduce access to care or increase costs for beneficiaries. A number of Republican committee members appeared increasingly receptive to the use of Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funds as a potential pay-for.

The current temporary SGR patch expires on March 31, at which point a 21 percent payment cut to Medicare doctors would go into place.

ASPS continues to advocate on behalf of its members that any SGR bill include clinically relevant quality measures with the option to report quality measures through a data registry and provisions ensuring that data reported as a part of a quality reporting system would not give rise to a medical liability cause of action.