The AAFP has posted a question and answer document about the latest congressional action on the sustainable growth rate, or SGR, formula, along with a detailed analysis of the SGR itself, on its Connect for Reform (Members Only) Web site.

The Senate passed a bill on March 2 that reversed a 21.2 percent cut in the Medicare physician payment rate that went into effect March 1 based on the SGR. However, the cuts were delayed only by one month and are set to expire on March 31.

The Q-and-A document provides details on

  • what is happening with the Medicare payment schedule,
  • what the government is doing to fix the problem,
  • the history of the SGR and its effect on physician payment rates,
  • what the current legislation means for doctors and their Medicare patients, and
  • what the Academy is doing in terms of the SGR.

The document points out that the SGR system is deeply flawed and that the cost of fixing it has built up over a number of years; currently, it would cost about $371 billion to fix the SGR, according to the Q-and-A document. Paying for the fix is problematical for Congress because of the cost, so they keep putting it off.

The Senate currently is debating a bill that includes an extension of the payment rate until Oct. 1, 2010. In the meantime, however, the AAFP is coordinating with other physician groups to make sure the cuts do not take effect. In addition, the AAFP is pressuring Congress to find a permanent solution to the SGR, according to the document.

"We know there are many other issues legislators are grappling with right now -- from health care to jobs to the budget, and all have become increasingly political," says the document. "Nevertheless, a 21 percent pay cut to our members and the negative effect it will have on our patients at any point are unacceptable."

The AAFP vows to "continue our efforts to ensure Congress understands the devastating effects (of the SGR) on physician practices and Medicare beneficiaries across the country and work with them to put in place a permanent Medicare payment solution."