The American College of Surgeons is supporting the SGR Repeal and Medicare Provider Payment Modernization Act of 2015, legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on March 19.

The bill seeks for reforms to the Medicare program which include repeal of the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula used for calculating Medicare physician payment rates. H.R. 1407 will replace the SGR formula with a payment system that focuses on the quality instead of volume. It will likewise consolidate three current Medicare fee-for-service quality programs into a program that would reward providers that meet performance thresholds.

The bill also seeks to encourage providers to shift from the traditional fee for service and go for alternative payment models with focus on prevention and coordinated care. It would also provide a 0.5 percent increase in physicians' payments through 2019.  

In a statement, ACS executive director David Hoyt commended lawmakers that constructed the legislation aimed at providing stability to the Medicare program.

"The College applauds the priority lawmakers are placing on passing the SGR Repeal and Medicare Provider Payment Modernization Act of 2015," Hoyt said.  "Surgeons will continue to educate their representatives and senators and urge them to pass this bill, which protects Medicare beneficiaries and the viability of surgical practices."

The SGR formula has called for payment cuts annually over the past decade but Congress often passes temporary "patches" over the formula in order to keep the physicians' payment steady. The current patch to the SGR will expire on March 31 after which physicians will face a 21.2 percent reduction in Medicare reimbursements unless Congress introduces another patch or a permanent repeal.

"We are now engaging in active discussions on a bipartisan basis-following up on the work done by leadership-to try to achieve an effective permanent resolution to the SGR problem, strengthen Medicare for our seniors, and extend the popular Children's Health Insurance Program," the leaders of the House Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce committees said in a statement.

The bill is similar to legislation the House and Senate committees approved last year albeit it did not address other components that could be included such as temporarily extending primary care providers' Medicaid parity payments and extending Children's Health Insurance Program to two to four years. 

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