House Passes One-Year SGR Patch; Senate to Consider SGR Legislation on Monday
March 31, 2014 08:30 AM
The House of Representatives earlier this week passed a one-year extension of a fix to the flawed Medicare physician payment formula known as the “Sustainable Growth Rate” (SGR) by voice vote. The measure that passed not only provides a temporary fix or “patch” to the SGR but also delays ICD-10 implementation until October 2015. This is the 16th such “doc fix” patch since the SGR formula was implemented.
NAHC is pleased that the House-passed SGR patch does not include any offsets in the form of cuts or copayments from the home health or hospice Medicare benefits. The President’s budget, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, and the Simpson-Bowles Commission have put forth home health and hospice payment cuts and copays as potential offsets for the SGR fix. Home care and hospice advocates at NAHC’s March on Washington this week urged their Members of Congress to reject any proposal to impose home health and hospice payment cuts and copays to offset the cost of the SGR fix.
While the bill rejects such proposals, it also did not include a NAHC-drafted amendment that would have provided relief from CMS’ misguided home health rebasing Final Rule (See NAHC Report, February 5, 2014). Click here to view the proposed rebasing amendment.
Other Medicare provider sectors sustained cuts to offset the cost of the SGR patch, including skilled nursing facilities, hospitals and clinical labs. To see a full summary of spending and cost estimates for the most recent SGR patch, please click here.
The Senate will likely take up SGR legislation early next week. The most recent SGR patch expires on March 31, meaning that the Congress must pass – and the President must sign – another extension into law to prevent a severe pay cut to physicians who treat Medicare patients. There is still a possibility that rebasing relief could be added to a SGR fix in the Senate, but most believe that the Senate will likely pass the same SGR patch that the House passed. In any event, NAHC is continuing it’s campaign for rebasing relief.
In recent weeks, both the House and the Senate have taken action on more permanent SGR repeal measures. The House passed an SGR repeal bill that included a delay in the Affordable Care Act’s Individual Mandate, which was opposed by Democrats and was not even considered in the Senate, where Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced his own SGR repeal legislation that would either not require offsets or use unexpended funds from the Overseas Contingency Operations account resulting from the drawdown in Iraq and Afghanistan.
For more on recent congressional activity on SGR repeal, please see NAHC Report, March 19, 2014.
While it appears likely that the Senate will pass the SGR patch and the President will sign it, support is growing for a more permanent solution. “The patches do not meet the needs of seniors and doctors and what our country deserves,” said Senator Wyden. “The cost of these past patches really is about the same cost as repeal, so I intend to work very closely with Leader Reid and Republicans.”