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Senate Passes SGR Fix, Obama Likely to Sign

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, April 1, 2014

The vote marks the 17th time that Congress has provided a short-term fix for the formula that sets Medicare pay rates for physicians. Included in the bill are two controversial provisions to delay implementation of the ICD-10 medical coding set and the so-called two-midnights rule.

On a bipartisan 64-35 vote, the Senate on Monday evening easily passed an 11th-hour bill to delay by one year a 24% cut in Medicare reimbursements for physicians that would have kicked in at midnight if the Sustainable Growth Rate funding scheme had been allowed to expire.

Monday's vote marks the 17th time that Congress has provided a short-term fix for the SGR since it was enacted in 1997. The controversial bill to extend the patch, which was make public only last week, sparked brief but fierce criticism before the Senate vote.

Sen. Tom Coburn, (R-OK), a physician, scolded his colleagues for their support of the Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014 (H.R.4302), which he said "totally ignored" the legislative process.

"The bill we have on the floor is one of the reasons why I am leaving Congress at the end of this year, because here's why the American people are disgusted with us. We are going to put off until tomorrow what we should be doing today," Coburn said at the start of a sharp and lengthy critique on the Senate floor.

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