Legislative Update for Week Ending September 26, 2014

Legislative Update for Week Ending September 26, 2014

This week, action on Capitol Hill remained slow as Members of the House and Senate adjourned to focus on their campaigns. However, lawmakers did reveal that they may consider a permanent “doc fix” after the November elections, which The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) was pleased to hear.

Lawmakers May Tackle “Doc Fix” in Lame Duck Session

This week, lawmakers revealed that they may take up legislation to repeal and replace the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula – the faulty formula that determines payment rates for doctors who treat Medicare patients – during this year’s lame duck session. This development came as a surprise to TSCL since the current “doc fix,” or temporary pay patch, does not expire until the end of March.

However, three key factors seem to be speeding up the debate. First, many in Congress feel that a permanent replacement to the SGR has the best chance of passing if it is attached to an essential spending bill or a package of tax extenders later this fall. On its own next spring, its passage is less of a guarantee. Second, many of the lawmakers who were instrumental in reaching last year’s compromise – including Reps. Dave Camp (MI-4) and Henry Waxman (CA-33) – will be retiring from Congress at the end of this year, and the issue may lose momentum. And finally, if they don’t take up the legislation during the lame duck session, the current SGR bill will expire and they will need to start the committee process from square one.

Leaders in Congress seem optimistic about taking up the legislation right after the November elections, but much work remains to be done. Before the legislation can pass, lawmakers must negotiate an offset to cover the cost of the estimated $130 billion bill. Last year, this obstacle brought the debate to a standstill. TSCL will monitor the evolving discussion closely over the next three months, since a permanent “doc fix” would bring much needed stability to the Medicare program for both doctors and patients. For updates, visit the Legislative News section of our website.