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Another SGR Patch Likely, Lawmaker Says

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, March 11, 2014

Calls to the office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, (D-NV), were not immediately returned Monday, but Democrats in the Senate are not expected to support any bill that tampers with the individual mandate.

As a result, Gingrey says, another temporary fix, the 17th such stop-gap measure since the SGR took effect in 2001, likely will be enacted to avoid the mandatory 24% cut in Medicare reimbursements that would otherwise go into effect when the deadline expires.

"It's just the clock. I am afraid there is not time," Gingrey says. "We are going to pass it in the House this week. It goes over to the Senate. The following week is a district work period, but two weeks from this week it could come back to us amended and then the conference would begin. But by then you're at the end of March and the patch only lasts until March 30. So obviously if we are going to mitigate, and clearly we on the Republican side and I would think the Democrats as well, don't want the doctors to take a 24% cut to their reimbursements to Medicare. They wouldn't stay in the game if they do."

Anything short of a permanent fix would be the latest in a long string of disappointments for the American Medical Association and other physician organizations that have complained for more than a decade about the SGR and the anxiety and uncertainty it creates. Last week, the AMA and more than 600 state and national physicians' organizations sent a joint letter to House and Senate leaders asking them for a permanent repeal before the end of the month.

AMA President Ardis Hoven, MD said in a statement Tuesday, "As we inch closer to March 31st without a permanent fix to the flawed SGR policy, the AMA is disappointed that some lawmakers may be abandoning a bipartisan, bicameral solution in favor of adding to a growing budgetary problem of Congress' own making. Another stopgap measure to brace Medicare's troubled payment system simply wastes more taxpayer money to preserve a bad policy." 

As recently as December, Hoven expressed optimism that an SGR repeal was imminent.

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