Before leaving Washington for this week’s recess, Congress passed a bill raising the debt limit so the federal government can borrow money through March 15, 2015. The bill was signed by the president over the weekend. Initially, the House was planning to include in the bill a nine-month patch to the Medicare physician payment system, which is partially based on the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula. But physician advocacy groups including the American Medical Association successfully advocated against another temporary patch, arguing it would deflate ongoing efforts to enact a full repeal of the system this year.
New Senate Finance Committee Chair Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) assumed his role last week, after Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) was confirmed to serve as the new ambassador to China. Wyden has listed his top priorities in this role: tax reform, protecting Medicare, competitiveness overseas, and access to quality, affordable health care.