The Medicare Physician Fairness Act of 2009, a bid to permanently repeal the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula, was rejected by the Senate last week in a vote of 53 to 47. Concerned about the price tag affiliated with the legislation, all 40 Republicans joined 13 Democrats in blocking the so-called “doc fix.”

The act introduced by Sen Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich) aimed to permanently repeal the SGR formula and prevent the 21.5% cut in Medicare payment rates to physicians scheduled for January 2010.

“Senator Stabenow introduced the Medicare Physician Fairness Act because we need to end a flawed reimbursement system and start living in reality,” Nkenge Harmon, spokesperson for Senator Stabenow, told Sleep Review. “We simply won’t allow a broken so-called sustainable growth rate formula to put seniors at risk of losing their doctors who could no longer afford to treat them at the severely lower rates.”

Despite Senator Stabenow’s intentions and support from groups like the American Medical Association, the legislation couldn’t garner support, mainly due to the $247 billion, 10-year cost.

“Although Republicans participated in talks to find ways to offset the $247 billion, no single revenue source gained the needed consensus, and GOP senators elected to turn Wednesday’s vote into a referendum on deficit spending,” stated a Washington Post article.

Following the vote, the AMA released a statement voicing its disappointment with the outcome. “There is widespread agreement among Republicans and Democrats that the formula is broken and needs to be repealed. Congress created the Medicare physician payment system, and Congress needs to fix this problem once and for all to fulfill its obligation to seniors, baby boomers and military families. Permanent repeal of the Medicare physician payment formula is essential to comprehensive health system reform.”

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