The 1997 rule that mandates unrealistic automatic cuts in Medicare physician payment rates should be replaced with attainable annual adjustments that can preserve Medicare solvency while maintaining physician participation, according to House Republican Conference Secretary John Carter (TX-31).
Carter says the 1997 Balanced Budget Act requirements to automatically cut physician payment rates to meet the law's Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula was unrealistic from the start, and has led to spiraling Medicare deficit spending as Congress has been forced to continually override the cuts to preserve access to physicians for Medicare beneficiaries.
"By relying on unrealistic spending controls, we have guaranteed an absence of effective spending controls altogether," says Carter. "It's time we stopped playing this pretend game of low-balling coming Medicare deficits by counting future cuts we know we can't make if we plan on preserving the system for our baby-boomers."
SGR places the heaviest burden for curbing Medicare deficit spending on cuts in physician reimbursement, usually to levels well below the physician's cost to provide the service, which would force most doctors to drop Medicare. Congress in turn is forced nearly every session to temporarily block the cuts, allowing Medicare deficit spending to continue skyrocketing for lack of more realistic cost controls.
Carter has co-sponsored a letter to the new Super Committee charged with further cuts to overall federal spending that requests the drafting of provisions overturning the SGR formula in favor of new annual Medicare spending controls that can reasonably be expected to be met in the future.