Lawmakers Likely To Pass Another ‘Doc Fix’ Ahead of Payment Cuts
With a scheduled 24% reduction to physicians' Medicare reimbursements about one week away, there appears to be limited time for House and Senate lawmakers to reach a consensus on separate plans to permanently repeal and replace the Medicare sustainable growth rate formula, which determines doctors' reimbursement rates, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on Friday told GOP lawmakers in a memo that the issue is a "must-do" item for Congress before the payment cut takes effect on April 1.
However, the House has approved a bill (HR 4015) to repeal and replace the SGR, but the measure is expected to stall in the Democratic-controlled Senate because it includes a provision to delay the Affordable Care's individual mandate penalties.
Meanwhile, Senate Democrats recently released their own proposal (S 2110), but it is likely to become entangled in a debate over how to cover its cost, according to the AP/Bee.
A Senate aide said the Democratic plan -- by Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) would be brought up for floor consideration early this week.
Meanwhile, Douglas Heye -- a spokesperson for Cantor -- said it is more likely that the House will work on a proposal that would temporarily address the SGR formula (Taylor, AP/Sacramento Bee, 3/22).
According to CQ Roll Call, a "short-term patch" is already under consideration, despite calls from industry stakeholders to roll out a permanent fix. Over the past 11 years, Congress has enacted 16 such "doc fixes," and another such patch could incite disappointment for provider groups and lawmakers who have worked on addressing the issue, CQ Roll Call reports.
American Academy of Family Physicians President Reid Blackwelder said the group remains "very hopeful that another patch doesn't mean that further work on a [permanent] bipartisan, bicameral solution won't happen," adding, "Obviously, if we're not going to get action on the repeal [of the SGR], we very much encourage one more patch."
Meanwhile, American College of Physicians President Molly Cooke recently called on Senate leaders to avoid disagreements on offsets to stall progress on the Senate plan and warned that a temporary fix would not help resolve differences. She said, "It would be best if such differences could be resolved through direct negotiations between the chambers before the bill comes up for a vote in the Senate, if not immediately thereafter in a Senate-House conference committee" (Ethridge, CQ Roll Call, 3/21).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.