By Greg Slabodkin for HealthData Management
Introduced on the House floor this morning, H.R. 4302, Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014, also amends the Social Security Act and repeals Medicare’s sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula that would cut the physician reimbursement rate this year by nearly 24 percent. The legislation would avert a 23.7 percent payment cut starting April 1 and delay Medicare payment cuts to physicians until April 1, 2015.
This morning’s raucous debate about the bill focused on SGR and not ICD-10. The fast-track “doc-fix” legislation was based a bipartisan deal struck between House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
However, consideration of the bill was not without drama this morning as the House recessed unexpectedly and congressional Republican leaders, who were concerned they might not have the necessary votes to pass the measure, huddled to consider their next steps. In the end, a voice vote was held instead of a full roll call vote.
In public statements, the American Medical Association (AMA) and American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), among other groups, had urged lawmakers to vote against the measure.
AMA strongly criticized the bill’s “temporary patch” to avoid a nearly 24 percent physician payment cut, arguing that “full repeal of the sustainable growth rate formula is the answer to strengthening the Medicare program, not another patch.” In their statement, AHIMA called on members and other stakeholders to contact their representatives in Congress and ask them to take the ICD-10 provision out of the SGR bill, claiming that “another delay in ICD-10 will cost the industry money and wasted time implementing the new code set.”
The bill was introduced by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Penn.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health Subcommittee, who said this morning on the House floor that “we’re not voting for the AMA today, we’re voting for seniors today.” However, Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.), ranking member of the Health Subcommittee, said “this bill is bad for seniors and it’s bad for doctors.” Pallone added that “what’s before us today doesn’t fix the problem. It exacerbates it.”
The legislation now moves to the Senate for consideration.