The fight over the flawed SGR (Sustainable Growth Rate) formula is familiar to physicians. Every year the scheduled cut in fees increases, and every year physicians fight for and eventually obtain a postponement. Friday, the House passed HR 4691, legislation that extends a number of expiring programs for 30 days, including current Medicare physician payment rates, which would once again postpone the 21% cut that was scheduled to take effect this year. The Senate attempted unsuccessfully on several occasions Friday night and Saturday morning to pass the same bill by unanimous consent, but objections were raised by Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY), on the basis that $10 billion cost of the program extensions was not offset . The Senate has adjourned for the weekend, so the 21% Medicare physician payment cut will be effective on Monday, March 1.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) are notifying their contractors to hold Medicare physician claims for 10 business days, effective Monday. The agency will also be sending out a similar message on its various list serves this afternoon to physicians, and contractors will be instructed to disseminate this information as well.
Senate Democratic leaders likely will need to use the cloture process requiring 60 votes to overcome Sen. Bunning's objections. Completing those procedural steps will push final action on the measure into next week.