On Monday evening the Senate passed and President Obama signed the Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014 (H.R. 4302) into law. This marks the 17th time Congress delayed the cuts to physician reimbursements established with the Sustainable Growth Rate under Medicare. The bill delays a 24% cut to the payments.
The Senate passed the bill with a 64-35 vote the evening the cuts were to go into effect at midnight. The Senate vote was preceded by the House passing the bill with a rare voice vote last week. Both chambers moved quickly to pass this bill after it became obvious no agreement would be reached on how to pay for the permanent 'doc fix' bills.
The Sustainable Growth Grate (SGR) was created in 1997 by Congress as a mechanism for tracking the payments with economic growth. The SGR became a problem within a few years as increases in healthcare costs substantially outpaced economic growth. This development resulted in the creation of a multi-billion dollar shortfall for the funding of Medicare payments to physicians.
Members on both sides of the aisle and in both Chambers spoke about the need to permanently fix the SGR. However, they recognized the immediate need to prevent the delay's expiration and prioritized this temporary patch over a lengthy negotiation process to pass a permanent fix that would result in the expiration of the SGR delay.