Senate attempts another SGR fix; 21% cut is now in effect

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The Senate passed a bill (S 3962) June 18 to block the 21 percent cut to fix to the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula for six months, after failing to pass larger tax extender legislation that also included the Medicare provision.

The measure will now need to be considered by the House of Representatives, which in May approved a pay fix that would last longer. However, the cut is still in place until the U.S. House of Representatives votes on this delay.

Friday, June 18 was the last day that Medicare could hold claims, and it was 17 days past the Senate’s deadline to stop the cut. Therefore, physicians started seeing a 21 percent cut in Medicare payments over the weekend.

“The Senate has been debating this issue for weeks and the latest proposal is a six-month delay of the cut.  Delaying the problem is not a solution,” said Cecil B. Wilson, MD, president of the American Medical Association. “Continued short-term actions are creating severe instability that harms seniors as physicians make decisions to protect their practices from Medicare’s volatility.”

Senators Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, arranged this "fix" that replaces the cut with a 2.2 percent raise.

President Barack Obama urged Congress to fix the problem in his weekly radio address June 12, stating, “Simply kicking these cuts down the road another year is not a long-term solution. I am committed to permanently reforming this Medicare formula in a way that balances fiscal responsibility with the responsibility we have to doctors and seniors.”