Supercommittee failure leaves 27 percent Medicare payment cut in place With the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction failing to reach agreement on a deficit-reduction proposal, physicians still face a 27 percent cut in Medicare physician payments scheduled to take effect Jan. 1. Congress has missed an opportunity to address the nation’s fiscal problems, stabilize the Medicare program and permanently repeal the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula. "The deficit committee had a unique opportunity to stabilize the Medicare program for America’s seniors now and for generations to come," AMA President Peter W. Carmel, MD, said in a statement. "Once again, Congress failed to stop the charade of scheduled annual physician payment cuts and short-term patches that spend more taxpayer money to perpetuate a policy all agree is fatally flawed. A decade of uncertainty and repeated threats of steep cuts threaten access to care for seniors and military families who rely on the Medicare and TRICARE programs." Proposals to repeal the SGR fell victim to disagreement over fundamental principles for achieving deficit reduction. Sharp partisan division over the mix of entitlement cuts and tax hikes prevented the supercommittee from reaching any agreement on a deficit-reduction package. Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Sen. John Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) were among the leading advocates for SGR repeal in the supercommittee negotiations. Earlier this year, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) had also offered a deficit-reduction package that included SGR repeal. Congressional action expected to avert 27 percent cut on Jan. 1 Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress have publicly stated their commitment to take action this year to avert the 27 percent cut. Options for SGR relief outside of the supercommittee process have ranged from short-term patches of a year or two to longer-term relief that provides for transition to a new Medicare physician payment system. The scope of the next SGR intervention will not come into better focus until Congress returns from its Thanksgiving break. Congress has a number of items of unfinished business that require action before departing for the Christmas holidays. Stay tuned for future updates via the Physicians’ Grassroots Network and other AMA communications.