Senate agrees to delay doc cuts, House yet to act

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The U.S. Senate passed a one-month extension last week of the current Medicare physician payment rates, essentially stalling a 23 percent cut related to the sustainable growth rate (SGR) due to take effect Dec. 1.

Lawmakers from the House of Representatives stated their plans to reconsider the cuts when the House reconvenes on Nov. 29."It is my intention to schedule this bill for consideration when the House reconvenes on November 29, so we can send it to the president's desk prior to the November 30 expiration date of current SGR relief," said Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., the House majority leader, in a statement.

The Senate SGR patch was a bipartisan effort introduced by Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Ranking Member Charles Grassley, R-Iowa. "The next step is moving on to finding a year-long extension before this fix runs out," Baucus said in a statement.

The bill, called the "Physician Payment and Therapy Relief Act of 2010," intends to pay for the extension using $1 billion in Medicare savings from a new Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services policy that reduces payments for multiple therapy services provided to patients in one day. However, this proposal would also provide relief to therapists by shrinking that reduction from 25 percent to 20 percent, according to the statement.

Baucus and Grassley said they are working together to secure a mutually agreeable way to pay for the year-long cost of the SGR formula as well as other extenders, and they felt confident they would find such a solution.