Taxing times

April 15 is a big day. If you haven’t finished your taxes, then you may have two deadlines to worry about.

April 15 is the day of reckoning for the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula, which has hung over physicians’ heads for more than a decade. If the SGR were allowed to kick in, physicians would see Medicare reimbursement slashed by 21.1 percent. Congress typically has dealt with the SGR problem by shunting it off to the next year.

Last year, lawmakers appeared close to resolving the issue with a permanent repeal of the SGR, but they squabbled over how to pay for it and instead passed a temporary patch set to expire March 31, 2015. This year the House voted 393 to 37 in favor of a bill that eliminated the SGR and set annual payment updates of 0.5 percent, beginning July 1, for four-and-a-half years.

The ball was in the Senate’s court, and its members called for a vacay delay. Rather than address the topic, which they should have known was coming down the pike, they declared they would handle it after they returned from a spring break. Recess started March 28 and ends on April 13.

The Senate could get away with this tactic because the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced it would hold off processing certain claims until April 15. If the Senate fails to reach an agreement, then it will default to the lower payment. “Any delay in processing claims beyond April 15 would negatively impact providers’ cash flow,” the agency warned in a statement.

So the race begins on Monday. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., promised that instituting a permanent “doc fix" would be a top-line item and that he expected bipartisan support and quick passage. Two-day quick?

Tax day, the day individual tax returns are due, is April 15. Here is hoping that neither of these deadlines imposes pain on you.

Candace Stuart

Editor, Cardiovascular Business