House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) appears confident that the chamber will approve legislation to revise Medicare's physician payment formula this week. “I think we've got 218 votes,” the simple majority in the House needed to pass the legislation, Clyburn said in an interview, although he did not specify the exact number of members supporting the bill. A vote is tentatively scheduled for Thursday.
The Medicare Physician Payment Reform Act of 2009 would prevent a scheduled 21.2% rate decrease set to take effect next year by revamping Medicare's sustainable growth rate, or SGR, formula, which sets payments for doctors under the program.
“The administration is pleased that the bill would eliminate the steep payment cut scheduled for 2010,” the White House said in a statement of administration policy in support of the bill. The Obama administration also praised the bill's provisions that would provide a boost to primary-care providers by increasing payments for evaluation and management services, such as office visits.
Though some Democrats seem confident the bill will pass the chamber without incident, others have hinted that nagging fiscal concerns about the bill remain, such as the legislation's lack of a spending offset. Members are still grappling with the “usual pay-go questions” on the SGR, said Rep. Robert Andrews (D-N.J.).