Amid concerns that they don’t have the votes, House Republican leaders postponed consideration of their bill Thursday, which would avert a steep, automatic cut to Medicare physician payments starting Tuesday, April 1.
The bill would avert for one year the cuts ordered by the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula, at a cost of $21 billion, funded with payment reductions to other health care providers. The lack of a “doc fix,” as it’s often called, could jeopardize seniors’ access to their doctors.
Republican leadership aides say the vote hasn’t been canceled, but the next steps are unclear. Seeking to save time, they had brought up the bill on suspension of the rules, which requires a two-thirds majority to pass it. After temporarily recessing the House, GOP leaders huddled with members of the Republican doctors caucus to talk it over.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) expressed reluctant support for the bill, given the looming deadline, but said she’s unsure how many votes Democrats will supply. She criticized Republicans for pushing the bill to the floor on suspension of the rules.
The American Medical Association, the chief physician lobbying group, is pushing hard against the GOP bill because they want a permanent solution to the ongoing specter of cuts, rather than another short-term patch. Congress has deferred the problem 16 times since 2002 with temporary SGR fixes.
In the Senate, the majority Democratic leaders also want a permanent solution but haven’t ruled out the GOP bill if it passes the House.