President Obama April 16 signed the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (H.R. 2), bipartisan legislation that permanently repeals the long criticized sustainable growth rate formula (SGR). Narrowly avoiding a 21 percent cut to Medicare physician payments, the Senate April 14 overwhelmingly passed (92-8) the bill, following a March 26 approval by the House.
Praising the “significant bipartisan achievement” the president said, “Not only does this legislation permanently fix payments to doctors, but it also improves it, because what it starts doing is encouraging payments based on quality.” He further added the bill, “encourages us to continue to make the health care system smarter, without denying service.”
In an April 14 statement, AAMC President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch, M.D., praised the Senate for its achievement stating, “This extraordinary agreement ends more than a decade of uncertainty and instability surrounding physician reimbursement and access to care for Medicare beneficiaries.”
Highlighting the bipartisan efforts essential to achieving reform he added, “We commend Senate Majority Leader McConnell, House Speaker Boehner, Senate Minority Leader Reid, House Minority Leader Pelosi, and committee leaders in both the Senate and the House for having the vision and commitment to work toward compromise and pass this important legislation.”
Although the most recent SGR patch expired March 31, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) had the ability to hold claims for 10 business days, leaving the Senate little time to vote on the package upon return to Washington from a two-week spring recess.
The legislation repeals the SGR, consolidates various quality reporting programs into a new merit-based incentive payment system (MIPS), and rewards physicians who participate in alternative payment models.
Additionally, the bill reauthorizes the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) through fiscal year (FY) 2017, and extends funding for the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) and Teaching Health Center (THC) program for two additional years.