The Washington Times - July 31, 2013, 01:10PM

A key House panel unanimously approved a bill on Wednesday that would replace the formula that pays doctors for each service provided under Medicare with one that rewards providers for high-quality care — a measure that both sides of the political aisle praised as long overdue.

The 51-0 vote by the Committee on Energy and Commerce sends the Medicare Patient Access and Quality Improvement Act to the full chamber.


For years, lawmakers had been exploring ways to repeal the way physicians are paid under the health entitlement for seniors and replace it with a more predictable model that rewards the quality, and not the quantity, of care that doctors provide.

The House bill would repeal the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula, which lawmakers override each year with a fiscal patch known as the “doc fix” — even when the formula calls for a cut.

“The time of temporary patches and kicking the can down the road is over,” said Health Subcommittee Chairman Joe Pitts, Pennsylvania Republican.

Rep. Michael Burgess, Texas Republican and the committee’s vice chairman, hailed the bill’s markup as a “milestone.”

“I’m heartened by the continued progress of this bill and am optimistic about it becoming law,” he said.

Besides repealing the payment formula, the bill would establish a five-year transition period while a new incentive program is developed, during which providers’ payments would be increased 0.5 percent per year to keep up with inflation.

In 2019, providers will be eligible for a 1 percent increase in rates on top of the inflationary raise if they meet certain benchmarks for quality of care.