Congressional Leaders Offer New Bill To Fix Medicare Doctor Pay

Two key congressional committee leaders -- one from each party -- are offering a new bill to fix the way Medicare pays doctors -- by repealing the Sustainable Growth Rate. The bill would freeze current payment rates until 2023, but would create a new budget-neutral incentive pay program in 2017.

Kaiser Health News: Key Senate, House Committee Chairs Offer Plan To Fix Medicare Doctor Payments
The Democratic And Republican leaders of two key congressional committees have agreed on a framework to scrap the problematic Medicare payment formula for physicians and replace it with one that would link physician reimbursement to the quality of care provided, a step that could put an end to the annual 'doc fix' debate (Carey, 10/31).

Politico: Bipartisan, Bicameral Pathway Possible For SGR Repeal
The top Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means committees have agreed on a basic framework for a permanent doc fix, a potentially momentous step in reforming the Medicare payment system. The plan, to be released in detail on Thursday, could be the most serious step yet in the effort to permanently repeal the flawed Sustainable Growth Rate. But there is not yet legislative language or a discussion of how to pay for it — potentially one of the biggest obstacles in permanent repeal (Haberkorn, 10/31).

Medpage Today: SGR Repeal Bill: 10-Year Pay Freeze, But P4P Incentives
The latest version of a bill to repeal Medicare's sustainable growth rate formula freezes payment levels through 2023 but creates a performance-based incentive program in 2017, according to a discussion draft obtained by MedPage Today. That program -- dubbed the "value-based performance (VBP) payment program" -- would replace the myriad of current incentive programs for physicians and create a "single budget-neutral incentive payment program," according to the draft from the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means Committees (Pittman, 10/30).

In related news -- 

Medpage Today: Final Medicare Fee Schedule Release Delayed
The final version of Medicare's 2014 physician fee schedule -- originally due to be published later this week -- won't be issued for nearly 4 more weeks, Medicare officials announced. The government shutdown caused the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to delay the release of the final fee schedule, which was set to be out by Nov. 1. A proposed version of the schedule -- which usually is very similar to the final version -- was released on July 8. "We intend to issue the final rules on or before November 27, 2013, generally to be effective on January 1, 2014," the agency stated on its website. The effective date of the fee schedule -- Jan. 1 -- is the same as usual (Pittman, 10/30).

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