Congress Sends One Year SGR Fix to President
Congress quickly passed a bill today that freezes physician pay under Medicare until the end of the year, effectively avoiding a nearly 30% cut under the SGR formula that was scheduled to take place in March. The SGR fix is tied to two larger measures in the bill — extensions to the payroll tax break and unemployment insurance — which virtually guarantees a signature by the President. The vote in the House was 293 to 132 and the Senate followed with a vote of 60 to 36. Lawmakers announced earlier this week they had reached a tentative agreement. As part of the legislation sent to President Obama’s desk, it also directs the Government Accountability Office and HHS to develop a plan to replace the existing system for reimbursing physicians. Avoiding the nearly 30% pay cut that was set to take place under the SGR formula costs around $20 million. In order to offset those costs, Congress reduced payments to hospitals and took $5 billion from a prevention fund, among other cuts.