Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, March 19 introduced a bill to repeal Medicare’s Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula for reimbursing physicians and replace it with a 0.5% payment update for five years as payments transition to a more value-based system.

Details of how the legislation will be financed are expected to be released in the coming days. But it is expected that more than half of the cost will not be offset, with the remainder funded through cuts to both providers and beneficiaries.

As the bill was introduced, the AHA kept the pressure on lawmakers to protect funding for hospital care in any new “doc fix” legislation.

More than 150 hospital leaders personally delivered that message to legislators and their staff on Capitol Hill following a March 19 AHA-hosted Advocacy Day briefing. AHA President and CEO Rich Umbdenstock and association staff urged hospital leaders to send a strong message to Congress: “No more cuts to hospital services!”

“There is no voice in this town that is more important than yours when it comes to hospital issues,” Umbdenstock said. “The elected officials in this town want to hear from you.”

Without congressional action, the next cut – 21% – would begin April 1. Also expiring are several Medicare provisions of importance to rural hospitals.

Congressional passage of an SGR replacement bill before that deadline remains uncertain, and a temporary measure may be needed to block the cuts and give lawmakers more time to write a final package. Congress has passed 17 bills temporarily averting the reductions since 2002.

As it seeks to avoid cuts to payments for hospital care in new physician payment legislation, the AHA also is pressing lawmakers to extend crucial programs important to rural health care; provide relief from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ two-midnight and readmission policies; and reject any further delays in the transition to the ICD-10 coding system.