The Senate adjourned for its two-week spring break on Friday morning without taking up the so-called "doc fix" bill that would permanently repeal the sustainable growth rate formula. The House passed the bipartisan legislation yesterday in a 392-37 vote.
The Senate reconvenes on April 13 and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Reuters that the chamber will "return to it very quickly when we get back." McConnell also expressed confidence in the bill's passage: "I think there's every reason to believe it's going to pass the Senate by a very large majority," McConnell said.
The current patch expires on April 1, but physicians likely won't face the 21% cuts in Medicare payments that the bill addressed. According to Modern Healthcare, CMS has said that it can delay claims processing for a certain amount of time.
The bill avoids the steep cuts by scrapping the SGR and giving physicians 0.5% pay boost for each of the next five years in concurrence with a program-wide shift to value-based reimbursement. While it has been widely touted as a bipartisan and bicameral solution to a problem that has been plaguing physicians and legislators for years, this deferral is not a huge surprise—some Senate members had expressed dismay that they weren't given more time to deliberate. The bill does have some legitimate funding concerns: The current deal accounts for only $70 billion of financing in the approximately $200-billion package.
President Obama has already indicated that he will sign the legislation if it passes.
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The kickbacks were disguised as teaching contracts, lease agreements and staffing perks.