Congressional payment patch leaves door open for permanent SGR reform

Congressional passage of a temporary fix that includes a 0.5% positive update to Medicare payments for 3 months has helped to avoid steep cuts of 24% in those payments to physicians.

The Senate voted 64 to 36 on Wednesday to approve the bill that sets federal spending levels for the rest of fiscal 2014 and fiscal 2015. The American Medical Association expects President Barack Obama will sign the bill Friday.


Ardis Dee Hoven

“This is the first positive payment update since 2010 and is intended to prevent disruptions to the Medicare program as Congress completes its work on SGR [Sustainable Growth Rate] repeal,” AMA President Ardis Dee Hoven, MD, said. “Much work remains in hammering out the final legislation.”

The American Academy of Family Physicians also reacted positively, noting that “for the first time” Congress is offering what an AAFP statement calls a “bipartisan, bicameral solution,” instead of the “annual rush by Capitol Hill to patch the SGR so physicians don’t have to face significant Medicare payment cuts.”

Now that Congressional lawmakers have agreed on overall spending levels, they still must draft individual spending bills for all federal departments by Jan. 15.

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