Just what will happen when the temporary increase in Medicare physician fees expires November 30? Probably not a lot, said Republican Congressman Michael Burgess at a meeting with reporters this morning in Washington. The Texas House member, a physician, is as disgusted as his doctor colleagues that Congress has yet to find a way to permanently replace Medicare’s Sustainable Growth Rate, or SGR, that most-hated of all payment methodologies.
Rep. Burgess said that he doesn’t expect Congress to do a whole lot besides financial reform for the rest of the year, in fact. Why? Well, Congress is in session July 9-August 9, and then scheduled to be off until mid-September (Senate schedule here, House schedule here). At that point, electioneering will be in full gear and no one will have doctors’ problems at the top of their minds, said Rep. Burgess.
After the November election begins the so-called “lame duck” session of Congress, when new House members and Senators find their desks and get their committee assignments, and the dust is still clearing from the partisan brawling. Not much business is conducted until January when the new Congress is actually convened.
And this year the expectation is that there could possibly be a shift in the majority — that is, Republicans may win back either house.
However, Rep. Burgess said he expected the lame ducks to enact another one- or two-month temporary law to head off the 21% Medicare pay cut that would go into effect Dec. 1.
Even if Republicans do win the majority, they aren’t what you would call “united” around a replacement solution for the SGR, said Rep. Burgess. He predicted it would take the Speaker of the House’s (whether Democrat or Republican) unswerving commitment to replacing the SGR to actually get it done.
Not exactly a rosy picture for physicians.
— Alicia Ault (on Twitter @aliciaault)