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On the Hill: Democrats Concerned About Healthcare.gov, New SGR Agreement

Senate Democrats are putting pressure on the Obama administration to fix healthcare.gov. Democrats, particularly those up for reelection in 2014, are concerned the rollout problems might impact their ability to keep their Senate majority. Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) said that Congress should consider delaying Affordable Care Act (ACA) penalties if the website is not repaired, but that he would rather see it fixed. The administration hopes to have the site fixed and running smoothly by the end of November.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner both attended House committee hearings last week regarding the website. As a result, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) and House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) subpoenaed the administration for ACA enrollment numbers and documents about healthcare.gov’s problems, testing, and other related information.

The House Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees announced last Thursday that they have come to an agreement on the framework for a permanent fix to the Medicare physician payment system. The current system relies on a formula that includes the sustainable growth rate (SGR), which is the target for yearly Medicare physician payment updates intended to control spending. While there is no specific legislative language or proposal to offset the cost of the fix, the overall proposal has gained support from House Energy and Commerce Committee leadership and by physician lobbying groups.

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