Senate Permanently Repeals Onerous Medicare SGR Cuts; AANA Congratulates Policymakers for Getting the Job Done

  • Apr 15, 2015

For Immediate Release: April 15, 2015
For More Information Contact:
Park Ridge, Illinois – The American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) salutes the U.S. Senate for its courageous decision to repeal the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) cuts and modernize Medicare payment systems. By a bipartisan vote of 92 to 8, the Senate approved passage of HR 2, the Medicare Access and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) Reauthorization Act, which replaces the current SGR cuts and eliminates the risk of annual payment reductions of 20 percent or more for healthcare professionals that could directly impact access to care for Medicare patients. The bill now moves on to the desk of President Obama, who indicated his support for and intention of signing the bill into law when it was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives weeks ago.
“For the first time in years, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) and physicians are no longer burdened by the threat of annual payment cuts related to the dysfunctional SGR formula,” said Sharon Pearce, CRNA, president of the 48,000-member AANA. “Additionally, Congress no longer needs to spend time every year putting temporary measures in place to prevent cuts and ensure access to care for millions of our nation’s senior citizens. This was a historic opportunity to achieve true Medicare reform, and Congress clearly hit a home run.”
As reported, the SGR, which Medicare uses to annually update payment for Medicare services, has for years threatened to penalize healthcare providers with payment cuts of 20 percent or more, requiring Congress to take short-term preventative measures on a regular basis. “The passage of HR 2 enables CRNAs to continue delivering high-quality, cost-effective anesthesia care without being hindered by the SGR,” said Pearce.
The AANA has long been involved with efforts to permanently dismantle the harmful cycle of SGR cuts, helping to temporarily avert possible cuts 17 different times since Congress passed the SGR into law in 1997 as part of the Balanced Budget Act. In recent attempts, the AANA and other advanced practice registered nursing (APRN) groups have stressed the importance of equal treatment for APRNs and physicians in the evaluation of quality measures and incentive reimbursement programs, and in the application of alternative payment models.
The bill’s Merit-Based Incentive Payment System and Alternative Payment Model payment structures ensure a 5-year period of stable annual updates of 0.5 percent to transition to modernized systems. This new structure will benefit Medicare patients and help promote care delivered by the nation’s frontline healthcare providers, including 340,000 APRNs who make up the APRN Workgroup, and will move Medicare away from a volume-based payment system toward a more patient-centered focus of rewarding healthcare providers for the value and quality of services rendered.
The AANA congratulates Congress for its decision to repeal the SGR formula, and looks forward to continuing work to enhance the country’s healthcare delivery system, ensuring that all patients have access to safe, cost-effective anesthesia care.