Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Doc-Fix Status Still in Limbo

Drew Thies

Legislators are largely keeping mum on the prospects of whether or not doctors will get a new payment plan at the end of the month. Draft legislation to repeal and replace the sustainable growth rate (SGR) has been introduced to committee but large barriers still stand in its way.

The area of largest concern is the legislation’s sources of funding. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says the proposed long-term fix will cost $138 billion over ten years, while unofficial estimates put another short-term patch at between $12-15 billion over nine months.

Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) acknowledged though decisions will have to be made. Speaking in front of the Federation of American Hospitals Tuesday, he refused to say hospitals would not be used as part of the offset. “This going to be a very challenging time. There is no way to pretend anything else,” he said.

 Sen. Wyden did, however, rule out the possibility of using health care funding to pay for non-health care programs.

 This year’s November midterm elections make any cuts to providers all the more visible. Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle are attempting to find a solution that pleases both heath care groups as well as their constituents.

Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN) of the GOP Doctors Caucus, a group that is influential in the SGR negotiation process, said the process is still in flux. “It’s been yes, no, and I think they’re back looking at maybe,” he said.

 A decision will have to be made before March 31st or doctors’ Medicare reimbursement rates will be cut by 24 percent. A scheduled recess the week of March 17th-21st leaves Congress with just ten legislative days to choose a solution.

 AHCA continues to monitor the situation and is kicking advocacy efforts into overdrive this month in order to preserve funding for the long term care community.

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