Last week, Speaker Boehner announced that the House and Senate have agreed on a two month extension of current Medicare payment rates, the payroll tax cut, and unemployment benefits.
My understanding is that the agreement has the House accepting the Senate’s proposal to extend the payroll tax break, unemployment insurance benefits, and current Medicare payment rates through the end of February, along with an agreement with the Senate to appoint a House-Senate conference committee to begin negotiations on a longer-term extension. It remains unclear exactly when the votes in the House and Senate will take place, and at least in the Senate, it will require unanimous consent by all Senators. If it passes both the House and Senate, the bill is expected to go to President Obama for his signature no later than December 30. Once signed into law, the legislation would prevent the 27.4% cut in Medicare payments to physicians resulting from Medicare’s Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula.
While ACP has strongly urged Congress to block the cut, stating that it would be unacceptable for Congress to recess and allow the cut to go into effect, this short-term extension does not represent the permanent solution that ACP believes is necessary. Accordingly, ACP will continue to urge Congress to enact a permanent solution that stabilizes payments for at least five years and allows for the transitionto better payment models.
Keep in mind that until the legislation actually passes the House and Senate, no one can guarantee with absolute certainty that the 27.4% SGR cut won’t go into effect. However, the official announcement of the deal makes it very likely that the cut won’t go into effect–at least for the next two months. After that, who knows?
*This blog post was originally published at The ACP Advocate Blog by Bob Doherty*