House Committee Hears from Panelists on Draft SGR Legislation

On June 5, the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee held a hearing to gather input from capitol webproviders and think-tank groups about its discussion draft legislation to repeal the sustainable growth rate (SGR). Vice-Chairman of the committee Michael Burgess, MD (R-TX) prefaced the hearing by saying that the only section of the draft legislation that Republican members of the committee have officially endorsed was the section on repealing the SGR. It was Burgess’ attempt to also deflect any of the negative attention his committee has received since releasing the draft legislation two weeks ago.

During the hearing, panelists said at least five years would be necessary to give providers enough time to develop and test quality outcomes measures, which, in the draft, would serve as the basis for setting reimbursement rates for physicians. In addition, panelists said that any proposal should provide the same standards and incentives to physicians and non-physicians who are performing the same procedures. In an effort to release a final bill before Congress breaks for recess in August, the committee is accepting feedback on this draft legislation. NASS developed comments and submitted them to the Committee on June 10. In addition, NASS, along with members of the Alliance of Specialty Medicine will be meeting with committee staff to discuss its recommendations.

Trouble for the SGR legislation began last week when the House Ways and Means Committee decided to walk away from the negotiations and when Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-PA) made contentious statements about the draft legislation, stating that it was light on specifics and was flawed because it didn’t go far enough to eliminate fee-for-service (FFS) as a payment model for providers. Rep. Schwartz has been one of the most vocal voices on Capitol Hill in favor of SGR repeal and re-introduced bi-partisan legislation with Rep. Joe Heck, DO (R-NV) that would eliminate FFS and replace it with a myriad of innovative payment models for physicians.

To access a recording of the hearing, click here.

GOP Doctor Introduces PPACA Repeal –Replace Legislation

Last week, Rep. Tom Price, MD (R-GA) introduced the Empowering Patients First Act (H.R. 2300), which would permanently repeal the health care law and replace it with what Rep. Price describes as “patient-centered solutions.” Rep. Price previously sponsored the Empowering Patients First Act in the 111th and 112th Congresses as H.R. 3400 and H.R. 3000, respectively.

In addition to repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the legislation would give tax deductions and tax credits to individuals to buy private health insurance; make employer-sponsored coverage “portable”; provide risk pool mechanisms to allow uninsured high-risk individuals with preexisting conditions to purchase coverage; and provide for medical malpractice reform. For a section-by-section analysis of the bill, click here.

CMS Accepting Potential PQRS Quality Measure Suggestions

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid have announced that it will begin seeking potential quality measures from stakeholders to be used for the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS), through July 1. CMS said that it would give precedence to measures that are “outcomes-based,” and are in-line with the National Quality Strategy categories of priority. These priorities include: making care safer, family engagement, coordination of care, prevention for the leading causes of mortality, promote best practices and affordable quality.

MedPAC Adds New Member

The Medicare Advisory Committee (MedPAC) recently tapped Jon Christianson, professor in the Division of Health Policy and Management at the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis to serve as a member of its staff. Gene L. Dodaro, Comptroller General of the United States and head of the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), also reappointed the five previously serving members of MedPAC.