Debt panel considers tackling 'doc fix'

Insiders say group has a 'strong interest' in overhauling SGR formula

Sources familiar with debt supercommittee discussions say the panel may include Medicare physician reimbursement formula reform in its deficit-reduction package, Reuters reports.

As part of the recent debt deal, the 12-member supercommittee must develop and pass by the end of November at least $1.5 trillion in federal spending cuts over 10 years. Failure to do so would trigger a series of across-the-board cuts.

Sources close to the committee say the panel has not yet decided whether to include a so-called "doc fix" in its deficit-reduction package, but that members have a "strong interest" in doing so, Reuters reports.

Since 2002, Congress annually has passed a series of short-term bills to block scheduled cuts to Medicare reimbursement rates under the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula. The most recent "doc-fix" bill, enacted in December 2010, is scheduled to expire on Jan. 1, 2012, at which point physicians face a 29.4% payment rate cut.

If the supercommittee decides to include SGR reform in its deficit-reduction package, it will have to make additional spending cuts or tax increase to offset the estimated $300 billion cost of repeal, Reuters reports. However, including SGR reform could help the panel garner support from the health care industry, which has been urging the committee in recent weeks to address provider reimbursement (Smith, Reuters, 10/12).

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