Medicare pay fix bill shelved

November 20, 2009

Senate shelved bill that would have cut out the method which CMS uses to calculate physician fees

A bill that would have eliminated the method which the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services uses to calculate physician fees was shelved in the Senate last month, but could live on in the overall health reform package.

The "Medicare Physician Fairness Act of 2009" was introduced by Senator Debbie Stabenow, (D-Michigan) in October and would have eliminated the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR), a component of the formula Medicare uses annually to calculate physician fee schedule. Since 2003, Congress has intervened to avoid cuts to physician fees dictated by the SGR.

The bill needed 60 votes to avoid a filibuster, but missed the mark by seven votes.

"You've got to incent caring for people, getting preventive care, keeping patients out of higher expensive places where care is delivered," says James Rohack, MD, president of the American Medical Association, which fought for Stabenow's bill. "To do that, you need to get rid of the formula that penalizes that."