Who’s go­ing to blink this week on SGR?

Modern Healthcare - - THE WEEK AHED - —Jes­sica Zig­mond

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.”


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