Last week the House passed legislation to permanently repeal the Medicare sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula in an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 392-37. The SGR provides targets for determining yearly Medicare physician payments, but has consistently required temporary patches to keep physicians from seeing steep cuts.
The bill was sent to the Senate for consideration, but the upper chamber did not have a chance to vote on the bill before adjourning for a two-week district work period. The House-passed SGR legislation included a one-year delay of Medicaid disproportionate share hospital (DSH) payment cuts mandated by the Affordable Care Act, a two-year extension of Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) funding, and several other essential hospital-related provisions. America’s Essential Hospitals supported passage of the legislation and issued an ACTION Update summarizing the details of the package. The Senate is expected to vote on the SGR package, with possible amendments, when Congress returns on April 13.
Also last week, both the House and Senate passed respective fiscal year (FY) 2016 budget resolutions and will work to meet an April 15 budget reconciliation deadline. Both budget resolutions call for substantial cuts to federal Medicaid spending by block granting the program. Block granting would mean the federal government would appropriate a certain amount of money for Medicaid Programs that states would then distribute as they choose. It should be noted that budget resolutions are not law binding but do set a spending framework for the FY.