House readies for short-term SGR fix

The House of Representatives has reached a deal to delay physician Medicare reimbursement cuts under the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula for another year, according to The Hill.

>> UPDATE: House approves temporary SGR fix

The last-minute agreement will likely disappoint physicians, most of whom support a previous bipartisan deal to permanently repeal the much hated payment formula. But that deal hit a snag this month when lawmakers inserted measures in the bill tying it to a delay in the Affordable Care Act's mandate requiring all individuals to obtain health insurance. 

The cost to permanently repeal the SGR with the ACA delay will total more than $180 billion, according to a report from the Congressional Budget Office, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

But the latest bill, which Congress is set to vote on as early as Thursday, consolidates Medicare sequester cuts scheduled for 2024 so that they all take place in fiscal year 2024 rather than dividing them between fiscal years 2024 and 2025, according to the article. Since this language only helps pay for the fix over 10 years, the bill also includes language exempting it from rules that require new revenues or cuts to offset new spending, the article states.

And in a move that will likely cause both outrage and joy within the healthcare industry, the bill also contains language that would delay ICD-10 implementation until 2015, according to a statement from the American Health Information Management Association.

House leadership will bring the bill to the floor under a suspension of House rules, with shorter debate and a required two-thirds majority to pass. Both the House and Senate will likely vote on Thursday.

"The sequester realignment provision is a pure timing gimmick that produces no real savings and has no effect on the debt," Ed Lorenzen, a senior advisor at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, told The Hill. "There are plenty of options for real savings to replace this gimmick."

The proposal "does not preclude any work from being done on the long term fix in terms of how we pay doctors. I frankly think the permanent fix that's being talked about is a good fix," House Speaker John Boehner said, according to Reuters. "What there isn't agreement on, is how are we going to pay for it."

To learn more:
- read the Hill article
- read the bill (.pdf)
- read the AHIMA statement