Despite Previous Hopes, Permanent Repeal of SGR Unlikely This Year
Although hopes were high that legislation to permanently repeal the sustainable growth rate formula would pass this year, lawmakers have acknowledged that there is not enough time on the 2013 legislative calendar and attempts to enact a permanent "doc fix" will have to move into 2014, Politico Pro reports (Haberkorn/Winfield Cunningham, Politico Pro, 12/4).
Next week, the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means committees are expected to vote on a bipartisan proposal that would repeal the Sustainable Growth Rate -- which sets physician reimbursement rates (Pittman, MedPage Today, 12/4).
There was hope earlier this year that Congress would send a permanent repeal of the SGR to President Obama by the end of 2013. That hope was fostered by a Congressional Budget Office estimate that found eliminating the SGR would cost about $139 billion over 10 years, far less than previous estimates for such legislation.
However, Politico Pro notes that the two committee votes are scheduled just days before Congress adjourns for the year, and, even if they pass, the bill will not have enough time to make it through the entire legislative process.
Scrambling for a Short-Term Doc Fix
Given the compressed timeline, committee members are scrambling to develop a short-term doc fix, according to Politico Pro (Politico Pro, 12/4).
CQ Roll Call reports that lawmakers are considering legislation that would delay by one to three months a 24% cut to physician reimbursements that is scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1. In the meantime, lawmakers are expected to continue to consider plans to permanently repeal the SGR (CQ Roll Call, 12/4).
A spokesperson for the House Energy and Commerce committee said, "Recognizing the reality of where we are today, we are committed to ensuring seniors do not experience a lapse in access to their physicians over the coming months as Congress completes its work."
While physician groups and advocates say they are mostly supportive of a short-term fix, they do not want another year-long delay in SGR legislation, according to MedPage Today (MedPage Today, 12/4). Reid Blackwelder, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, said, "The worry we have with a three-month patch is if for some reason the House and Senate cannot get it together and come up with a mutually agreeable solution that repeals the SGR, we're back in the same mess."
Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) said, "If you've got your policy right, you've got some pay-fors and you've got a chance to fix it with a debt ceiling or a [continuing resolution] or whatever" when the committee "bring[s] the subject up in 90 days" (Politico Pro, 12/4).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.