The so-called "Doc-Fix" bill also suspends Medicare's sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula that would have cut the physician reimbursement rate this year by nearly 24 percent. Congress had until today to pass the legislation that averts the payment cut and further delays Medicare cuts to physicians until April 1, 2015. In addition, the bill further delays enforcement of the Medicare two-midnight payment policy for hospitals until March 2015.
The Senate conducted a straight “up or down” roll call vote on the bill, which prevented senators from removing any sections of the bill, including the ICD-10 delay provision. Previously, in a March 27 voice vote, the House of Representatives approved the fast-track legislation that was based on a bipartisan deal struck between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker John Boehner.
In an opening statement earlier this afternoon to begin the Senate's consideration of H.R. 4302, the Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014, Reid acknowledged that the 12-month temporary SGR fix in the bill "is not perfect, not ideal" but it "ensures that Medicare patients will be able to see their doctors." The legislation is Congress’ 17th temporary Medicare patch. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), recently installed as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, tried but failed to get the Senate to consider a permanent Medicare SGR fix during debate on the bill.