After a “vote-a-palooza” session voting on amendments to the Federal Budget, extending overnight and into Friday morning, the U.S. Senate punted any decision on the bill repealing the sustainable growth rate until after its two-week recess. The House passed H.R. 2, a resolution that permanently replaces the existing SGR formula and includes a two-year extension to the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), by a huge 392-27 margin on Thursday, March 26.
The pressure on the Senate to pass the bill was further amplified when President Obama signaled he was ready to sign the bill, should it reach his desk. Nevertheless, the Senate tabled debate and voting until after they return from recess.
Will this mean a 21 percent pay cut for physicians filing claims for treating Medicare patients? Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, reportedly said that Senators would “move to it very quickly” upon their return from recess. The Senator also told reporters “I think there’s every reason to believe it’s going to pass the Senate by a very large majority.” The Senate returns the week of April 13.
The recess provides plenty of opportunity for lobbyists to promote either killing the bill, changing it, or amending it, perhaps even raising the specter of yet another ICD-10 delay. Passage of the bill is not certain, despite Senator McConnell’s comments.
So, what happens in the meantime, since the existing law enacts that 21 percent pay cut as of April 1st, no fooling? Again, according to comments made by Senator McConnell, CMS is expected to temporarily hold claims processing during that time to avoid the pay cuts being processed. CMS posted a notice on their website, Tuesday, March 24, that they “must take steps to implement the [pay cuts].” CMS also promised to “notify you on or before April 11, 2015, with more information about the status of Congressional action to avert the negative update and next steps.”
Presumably, however, Senators’ pay will not be delayed; and their spring recess was only delayed by a few hours.