March 28, 2014
For the past year, Congress has been working on legislation to repeal the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) system, which was put into place to regulate spending on Medicare physician services. Congress must act before April 1, 2014, when the previously passed three-month patch expires. In February, Congressional leaders introduced a bipartisan, bicameral bill known as the SGR Repeal and Medicare Provider Payment Modernization Act of 2014. However, disagreements over pay-fors have stalled progress and a successful repeal of the SGR is now in jeopardy.
On March 14, 2014, House Republicans passed H.R. 4015, which was amended to fund the bill by delaying the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate provision for five years. President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) stated that legislation with that provision will not pass the Democratic-controlled Senate. Conversely, the Senate began working on a S. 2110, version of the SGR legislation that would cost $180.2 billion over 10 years due to the additional cost of extending other health programs set to expire.
Furthermore, two new bills were introduced in the late evening of March 25. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), the newly appointed Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, introduced S. 2157, the Commonsense Medicare SGR Repeal and Beneficiary Access Improvement Act of 2014. This bill would use Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funds as an offset to pay of the SGR repeal. Additionally, House Republicans have introduced H.R. 4302, a year-long SGR patch, that would expire on March 31, 2015. On March 27, the House passed H.R. 4302 by voice vote. The Senate is expected to vote of the bill on Monday, March 31.
There will be a flurry of activity as we approach the April 1 deadline. To stay up to date on SGR issues, please visit SNMMI’s Issues & Advocacy site.