The seemingly perpetual battle over Medicare payments to physicians based on the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) is set to take center stage on Capitol Hill later this month. Once again, it appears that Congress will pass yet another temporary patch.
The SGR is set to expire March 31, 2015. Without a fix, physicians will experience a 21.2% decrease in Medicare payments.
Last year Congress was finally able to draft a bi-partisan, permanent fix to the SGR. However, a last-minute fight in the House over how to pay for the fix resulted in the bill’s failure. House leaders intended to pay for the SGR repeal by delaying the implementation of Affordable Care Act’s “individual mandate” to purchase health insurance. This was not supported by the Democratic majority in the Senate or President Obama, which resulted in the 17th
temporary patch to the SGR and pushed its expiration out another year.
The same bi-partisan bill that was drafted in 2014 is expected to come to the floor for a vote this spring, but it appears that the fight over how to pay for the SGR repeal will, once again, derail it. However, this year’s patch might not last the whole year.
“There is wide speculation on Capitol Hill that this patch will be for only three to nine months, providing Republican congressional leaders with time to work on a permanent repeal package,” said AANEM health policy director Millie Birr, JD, MPP. Over the past 12 years, Congress has spent over $150 billion in temporary patches.
AANEM policy staff continues to monitor these developments and will keep you updated as more information becomes available.