Who’s going to blink this week on SGR?
Congress faces intense pressure to pass at least another short-term doc fix as lawmakers return to Washington this week.
There still is no agreement on how to pay for permanent repeal and replacement of Medicare’s unpopular sustainable growth-rate formula for physician payment.
The latest SGR patch ends March 31. Some predict House Republican leaders will move legislation for a temporary patch. But it’s unclear if that will be for nine months or a year.
Republicans and Democrats are at loggerheads over how to pay for the permanent repeal bill, which the Congressional Budget Office estimated would cost $180 billion over 10 years, including extensions of several Medicare payment programs. The House recently passed a bill to delay the Obamacare individual mandate for five years to raise the money, at a cost of millions of additional uninsured Americans. The Senate refused to consider it.
Last week, staff from the Senate Finance Committee said committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) is “very open” to considering the use of Overseas Contingency Operations funding to cover the cost. Those funds are used for the war in Afghanistan, which is winding down, and other overseas operations. But House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is opposed to using those funds, according to Julius Hobson, a policy analyst at the law firm Polsinelli.
“What makes this most frustrating is that we have a bipartisan, tri-committee, bicameral agreement,” Hobson said, “but we can’t make that last step.”