Senate approves bill to repeal SGR

Votes 92-8 to retire controversial "doc fix" formula used to calculate Medicare payments

The Senate Tuesday night overwhelmingly passed a bill to do away with the controversial Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula, a mechanism used to calculate Medicare payments to physicians.

The vote, 92-8, took place at 9:40 p.m., dangerously close to a midnight deadline when payment cuts of 21 percent were due to take effect unless the Senate approved the legislation.

[RELATED: Physicians say good riddance to SGR, applaud Senate repeal vote]

Democratic and Republican lawmakers drafted the proposed $214 billion "doc fix" legislation in late March and the bill passed the House of Representatives  in a 402-12 vote. Despite the support of physician lobby groups and trade associations, many have expressed concerns with the costs of the repeal and lack of details. A recent Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services report casts doubt on the bill's value as a long-term solution to physician reimbursement problems and indicated that Congress will likely have to pass further legislative fixes in the future.

Prior to the vote, which only required a simple majority, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) called the bipartisan legislation a "monumental achievement."  And Sen Ron Wyden (D Ore.) referred to the repeal as a milestone for Medicare, one that finally retired an "outdated, common sense-defying reimbursement system."

Look for more details about the Senate vote and what it means for providers in Wednesday's FierceHealthcare.

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