Congress Passes SGR Repeal

In a rare demonstration of bipartisanship, on April 16, 2015, the United States Senate passed H.R. 2, the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MARCA), by a resounding 92-8 vote. This legislation to permanently repeal the flawed Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula previously passed the House of Representatives on March 26, 2015. Because the Senate elected not to amend any portion of the House bill, President Obama was permitted to quickly sign the legislation into law, thus preventing the impending 21 percent cut in Medicare reimbursement from going into effect.

In addition to avoiding this steep payment cut and repealing the SGR, H.R. 2 extends the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for another two years, institutes a 0.5 percent increase in Medicare reimbursement over the next four and a half years, establishes the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS), as well as encourages physicians to transition to alternative payment models (APMs). The MIPS program aligns CMS’s three existing clinical quality assurance programs, specifically the Electronic Health Record (EHR) “meaningful use” policy, the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS), and the Value-Based Payment Modifier (VBM), along with newly created clinical improvement activities into one larger, modified fee-for-service program. The legislation also provides a five-year period of bonus payments to physicians who participate in APMs that include two-sided financial risk.

The ACR thanks the Congress for reaching a bipartisan agreement and repealing the flawed SGR, once-and-for-all.