A Real Cliff-Hanger, But We’re Still Holding On
By Matt Farber, Director Provider Economics and Public Policy, ACCC
By now most of you know that the House of Representatives passed a bill late last night averting the so-called “fiscal cliff,” stopping massive tax hikes, and delaying spending cuts. Within this bill are a few key provisions related to healthcare that are worth taking note of:
- Congress voted to delay the sequestration cuts for two months. This means that the two percent cut to Medicare payments will be put off until early March, as will the cuts to the National Institutes of Health, the Defense Department, etc. Ultimately, Congress acted to buy itself more time on this issue. Now, Congress will have to deal with both the sequestration cuts and the budget in the first two months of the year.
- Congress included a one-year patch to the sustainable growth rate (SGR), averting a 26.5 percent cut to the conversion factor. Once again, Congress has opted for a “doc-fix,” and once again we would have preferred that the “fix” be long-term instead of yet another “band-aid.” But as in past years, the price tag for a long-term fix has proven to be too big a stumbling block. To pay for this one-year fix Congress will again make cuts to other areas of healthcare as it did in 2012. This time the cuts will come from Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) payments, other payments to hospitals, cuts to imaging payments, and cuts to ESRD payments and to some diabetic pharmacy supplies. (ACCC will prepare a full summary of the bill with complete details. Stay tuned to the ACCC website for more information).
So Congress has prevented a fall off the cliff—for the time being. In the end, this is a mixed bag for oncology providers. Avoiding the two percent cut and 26.5 percent cut are good things; however, both are only temporary. The two percent sequestration cuts are postponed for two months, while the SGR “doc fix” lasts for one year but comes with cuts to other areas of the healthcare sector that will impact oncology.
These developments underscore the importance of building relationships with your members of Congress. What would a two percent across-the-board reduction in Medicare reimbursement mean to you and your ability to see patients? Let your senators and representatives know how this will affect patient access—and jobs—in your area. This is especially important for those in states with newly elected members of Congress.
ACCC is undertaking a new grassroots effort to educate Congress about the issues impacting community cancer care. Please visit our the advocacy section on the ACCC website to learn more about the issues and how to contact your members of Congress. In ACCC’s Legislative Action Center you will find an easy-to-send letter on stopping the sequestration cuts.
As always, ACCC will keep members up-to-date on all new developments. Congress needs to hear from you, and ACCC is here to help.