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Senate to Vote on 'Doc Fix'/ICD-10 Bill Today

March 31, 2014
by Gabriel Perna
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The U.S. Senate will vote today on whether or not to approve a temporary Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) "doc fix" bill, which would prevent an immediate 24 percent cut in Medicare physician payments this year.

The bill would also delay the ICD-10 compliance date by another year. The current compliance date is Oct. 1, 2014. Last week, the bill passed with a voice vote on Thursday afternoon, March 27.

The vote is scheduled for approximately 5 pm. If it passes the Senate, it will be moved onto President Barack Obama, who can either veto it or sign it into law. Sources tell Healthcare Informatics that swift Senate and Presidential approval is expected.

The SGR, which is the formula for physician payment established under Medicare since 1997, has been repeatedly "fixed" in order to avert physician payment cuts under Medicare. The formula attempts to control growth in Medicare spending on physician fees by tying reimbursement to economic growth. Because of the yearly "fixes" since 1997, the amount the federal government in effect owes itself has grown to somewhere between $150 billion and $250 billion, a staggering sum that, legally, must be resolved.

The current formula is set to reduce Medicare physician payments by a significant amount today, depending on estimates, approximately 30 percent in the coming fiscal year. For this reason, the vote is happening today, followed by President Obama’s either approval or rejection.

The bill has not been well received thus far by advocate groups. Groups such as the Chicago-based American Medical Association, which has been down on the ICD-10 transition before, are overwhelmingly against another temporary fix to the SGR.

The Chicago-based American Health Information Managers Association (AHIMA) held a “virtual rally” against another ICD-10 compliance delay on Twitter. Below are some of the tweets that were featured by AHIMA, which advocated for “#NoDelay.”

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