Without Way to Pay for SGR Repeal, Is Optimism in Vain?

Jacqueline Fellows, for HealthLeaders Media , December 5, 2013

The answer remains unclear, though with the House set to recess for the holidays the day after the proposal markup, it is unlikely there will be any progress on the bipartisan legislation to end the SGR before the end of the calendar year.

Nicholas Manetto, vice president at the K Street lobbying firm FaegreBD Consulting, says the SGR repeal could move quickly, even with a narrow window. He says it depends on the progress at next week's mark-up meeting.

"The big issue is timing," says Manetto. "At next week's committee meeting, [groups] will be looking to see if the bill gets bogged down with a lot of amendments that make it harder to move."

Any budget offsets to pay for the SGR repeal will not be offered by Senate Finance committee chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.). His office confirmed it would not identify any offsets prior to next week's hearing.

Talks about a temporary patch have resurfaced because of budgetary and debt ceiling constraints, which raises the hackles of the AMA.

"We've already spent $146 billion to patch over the last 10 years," says Hoven. Repealing the SGR "is the fiscally responsible thing to do, and members of Congress get it. They know it. If they don't repeal it and don't get us to a better model that is going to work, it is going to continue to cost this country billions and billions of dollars, and that's inappropriate."

The chairman of the House Ways and Means committee, Dave Camp (R-Mich), issued a statement Thursday that echoes the AMA’s position of forgoing another temporary workaround:

"SGR is an important issue for physicians and seniors alike who, for over a decade, have been hamstrung by short-term patches instead of the certainty of a permanent solution. The Committee has made real progress on a bipartisan and bicameral bill. If that progress continues, I expect the Committee to consider the legislation before the end of next week."

Jacqueline Fellows is an editor for HealthLeaders Media.
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