Senate Delays SGR Cuts One Month

Cheryl Clark, November 19, 2010

Medicare's 25% physician pay cut scheduled to take effect Dec. 1 has been postponed for another 30 days, until Jan. 1, under a two-part agreement discussed by the Senate Finance Committee.

"Working together, we have set a path to ensure seniors and military families can continue to get quality healthcare," Senators Max Baucus, and Charles Grassley say.

"This agreement makes certain that seniors and military families can be confident they will be able to see a doctor and get the medicines they need. It is our hope the Senate will pass this package as soon as possible to give doctors, seniors and military families the care and the certainty they deserve."

The legislation must be passed by the House before Dec. 1 and signed by President Obama.

The two-part agreement would first provide for a one-month extension of the SGR or sustainable growth rate formula that is scheduled to impose the 25% pay cut for federal healthcare beneficiaries on Dec. 1.   Another 1.9% cut is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1.

The senators' statement says the extra spending required to extend the cut would come from the Physician Payment and Therapy Relief Act of 2010. The act is a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services policy to reduce payments for multiple therapy services provided to patients in one day, according to a statement from the committee.

Additionally, therapists would have their payment cut, now scheduled to be 25%, to be reduced to 20%.

"Seniors and military families can rest assured that they will continue to have access to the doctors, treatments and medications they need," Baucus said in a statement. "Once signed into law by the President, it will mean that seniors and military families are spared the threat of a lapse in care. The next step is moving onto finding a yearlong extension before this fix runs out."

Baucus and Grassley have also agreed that they will "work to pursue a year-long fix to the formula that could be enacted before the month-long patch expires."

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