Senate Passes One-Year SGR Patch; President Obama Signs Legislation to Avoid Physician Payment Cuts for One Year
April 1, 2014 09:43 AM
The Senate recently passed a one-year extension of a fix to the flawed Medicare physician payment formula known as the “Sustainable Growth Rate” (SGR) by a vote of 64-35. President Obama signed the measure into law before the March 31 deadline – avoiding a 24 percent cut in Medicare reimbursement rates for physicians.
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 17th such “doc fix” patch since the SGR formula was implemented, though the calls to permanently repeal and replace the SGR formula are growing louder – from Democrats and Republicans alike. Physicians groups, too, are unhappy with the temporary patches to the SGR formula.
NAHC is pleased that this most recent 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).
Other Medicare provider sectors sustained cuts to offset the cost of the SGR patch, including skilled nursing facilities, hospitals and clinical labs.
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 28, 2014.