The House voted 243-183 to approve legislation that seeks to reform the way Medicare pays physicians, aiming to prevent a scheduled 21.2% rate decrease set to take effect next year.
House OKs doc-pay revamp
The legislation would specifically revamp Medicare's sustainable growth-rate, or SGR, formula, which is based on the economy's health, and has produced results that would have resulted in payment cuts to physicians every year since 2003. Congress has stepped in each time to enact a temporary fix so that doctors won't experience additional reductions to their Medicare payments.
Lawmakers have been demanding that physicians provide care more efficiently. “In return we need to pay them fairly for their efforts,” said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of House Energy and Commerce Committee, during floor debate on the bill, called the Medicare Physician Payment Reform Act of 2009.
Republicans called the measure a political payoff to the physician lobby. The bill “is nothing more than a repayment to the American Medical Association for endorsing the larger healthcare bill on the floor several weeks ago,” said Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee.
GOP members argued the bill would increase Medicare premiums and would add to the federal deficit. The SGR fix under a budget agreement reached earlier this year is exempt from so-called “paygo” rules, meaning it is not offset by cuts elsewhere.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said the bill does take efforts to reinstate statutory “paygo” language. While it would not apply to the SGR fix directly, the language would restore fiscal discipline in other future legislation, Hoyer said.
Several procedural votes prevented the GOP from offering alternative solutions to the bill's SGR fix.
Now that the House has passed its legislation, the Senate has several options on how it may proceed on the SGR fix, such as taking up what the House approved, or reconsidering its own bill, which failed in the Senate last month, said Patrick Smith, senior vice president, government affairs with the Medical Group Management Association, in an interview.
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