(March 31, 4:30 pm) The U.S. Senate was poised this afternoon to take a vote on the Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014 at 5:30 pm in an attempt to enact a one-year patch (H.R. 4302) to the Medicare sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula . The Ohio Osteopathic Association joined the American Osteopathic Association in sending a strongly worded message to the Senate saying, "enough is enough."
Last week, despite strong opposition from the physician community, the House of Representatives, approved a one-year patch (H.R. 4302) to the Medicare sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula by voice vote. The maneuver was strongly opposed by physician groups, who accused Congress of being fiscally irresponsible for failing to again pass a permanent fix to the reoccurring annual Medicare physician fee cut caused by the flawed formula.
"We believe this legislation will derail all progress that has been made over the last year towards permanently repealing the current Medicare sustainable growth rate (SGR) methodology, " wrote OOA Executive Director Jon F. Wills. "We cannot keep 'kicking this can down the road;' we need to replace the SGR with a stable payment system that will allow physicians to provide high-quality care for Medicare beneficiaries for years to come. "
Wills went on to say the physician community has had to deal with the uncertainty and disruption caused by last minute payment fixes for years. He said the patches passed each year by Congress add injury to insult and it is time to correct the flawed system once and for all.
"We urged Ohio Senators Brown and Portman to vote vote "no" in order to advance the bipartisan, bicameral physician payment reform legislation that was crafted by the House and Senate committees after lengthy hearings this past year," said OOA President Robert L. Hunter, DO. "That legislation is supported by the physician community and will allow the SGR issue to move to conference committee for final negotiations for a permanent fix as part of the House approved package.
Hunter went on to explain that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) circumvented normal legislative procedure in order to be able to pass the legislation, because House leadership feared they did not have sufficient votes to pass the bill. The "Protecting Access" legislation was the result of an agreement reached earlier in the week by Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to temporarily avert the 24 percent Medicare payment cut on April 1 by patching the SGR for 12 months.
"The time has passed for temporary solutions," said Dr. Hunter. "Patches are not the answer. Physicians have waited long enough; we need a permanent solution."
The Senate announced its intention to vote on the patch legislation later today. If it passes in that chamber too, the "Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014" will derail all the progress made this year on permanent Medicare physician payment reform by pushing it into next year when a new Congress begins, and the whole process must start over.