April 15, 2015

The New York Times (4/15, A16, Pear, Subscription Publication) reports that the Senate “on Tuesday approved sweeping changes in the way Medicare pays doctors, clearing the bill for President Obama and resolving an issue that has bedeviled Congress and the Medicare program for more than a decade.” Senators voted 92 to 8 to repeal Medicare’s sustainable growth rate formula and also extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program for two years. Without action by Congress, physicians “would have faced a 21 percent cut in Medicare fees on Wednesday or Thursday.”

USA Today (4/15, Kelly) notes the Senate passed the bipartisan deal “just hours before that cut was to take effect” at midnight. President Obama is expected to “quickly sign the bill into law.” According to Reuters (4/15, Cornwell), Obama said in a statement, “I will be proud to sign it into law.”
Before the bill’s passage, the AP (4/15, Fram) reports, senators “were voting on amendments, three from each party, that seemed sure to lose but let lawmakers demonstrate their disapproval of provisions they opposed.” A Democratic proposal to extend CHIP for four years fell short of the 60 votes necessary to prevail, while conservatives tried to force Congress to pay for the entire $214 billion package. The Hill (4/15, Carney) reports in its “Floor Action” blog that senators rejected an amendment proposed by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) that would have repealed the ACA’s individual mandate to pay for the legislation. The Hill (4/15, Ferris) notes that had senators approved any of the amendments, the legislation would have been sent back to the House.
According to the Washington Post (4/15, Debonis), the SGR bill was praised by congressional leaders “as a bipartisan triumph for both removing a yearly headache from the legislative calendar but also by implementing modest reforms to Medicare, including future incentives for doctors to deliver better care as well as premium hikes for the wealthiest Medicare recipients.”
Politico (4/15, Haberkorn) describes the deal as a “rare bipartisan policy achievement, made all the more significant considering that health care legislation has essentially been frozen in Congress since the contentious passage of the Affordable Care Act five years ago.”
The Wall Street Journal (4/15, Hughes, Subscription Publication) reports that under the legislation, physicians will receive a 0.5 percent pay increase starting in July, followed by additional 0.5 percent annual pay raises through 2019, before the government implements new incentives for physicians to adopt alternative payment models.
According to the Los Angeles Times (4/15, Levey), groups “that had pushed for years to change the payment system” were pleased with the bill’s passage.
Also reporting on the story are the Washington Times (4/15, Howell), Bloomberg News (4/15, Hunter), Reuters (4/15), CNN (4/15, Barrett), The Hill (4/15, Sullivan), a second article from The Hill (4/15, Ferris), a third piece from The Hill (4/15, Ferris), Fox News (4/15), the Boston Globe (4/15), US News & World Report (4/15), National Journal (4/15, Subscription Publication), The Chattanoogan (4/15),Modern Healthcare (4/15, Subscription Publication), MedPage Today (4/15), and Medscape (4/15).



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