Legislation repealing a flawed reimbursement formula for doctors and other medical providers who treat Medicare patients sailed through the U.S. House of Representatives Thursday with overwhelming bipartisan support, falling just 37 votes shy of the complete chamber’s support.
Thirty-four of the dissenters were Republicans, and two of the no bloc represent conservative districts here in Georgia: Reps. Barry Loudermilk of Cassville and Tom Graves of Ranger.
The proposal, which is expected to be taken up by the Senate sometime next week, trashes a 1997 federal repayment formula known as the “standard growth rate” (SGR) that tied Medicare payments to increases in the economy.
As health care costs began outpacing economic growth, Congress was forced each year to temporarily override the SGR payment scheme. That dynamic, physicians groups said, left the medical community in limbo and risked an exodus from the Medicare program by health providers.
House Speaker John Boehner said the new Medicare blueprint, which would retire the harried annual “doc fix” tradition, would cost less than the current scheme, but outside conservative groups criticized the proposal as insolvement and said it would increase the national debt by $500 billion over the next two decades.
UPDATE, 4:45pm: Rep. Loudermilk, through his spokeswoman, said Friday afternoon that he appreciated the intent of the SGR repeal—“working to move away from the kick the can down the road style approach”—but could not support the new funding mechanism without more robust offsets. Read his statement in full below the jump:
“The House recently passed legislation to permanently repeal the flawed Sustainable Growth Rate. I applaud my colleagues for working to move away from the kick the can down the road style approach, which has defined Congress for far too long. I support the effort to provide healthcare providers with the predictability to run their practices.
“However, considering the long-term cost projections without additional offset cuts, I couldn’t justify adding to our already overwhelming debt, which is now over $18 trillion. According to the Committee for a Responsible Budget, which is a bipartisan, non-profit organization whose board of directors includes names such as Alan Simpson, Erskine Bowles and Paul Volcker, this bill will add $500 billion to the debt by 2035. While I am a passionate advocate for the doctors and healthcare professionals in my district, I simply could not justify funding these reforms on the backs of our children and grandchildren.
“The bill will now go to the Senate, and I encourage members of that body to find ways of offsetting the projected impact on our national debt while still providing the reforms and reimbursement stability our Medicare healthcare providers desperately need.”
The full roster of Team No:
Jim Cooper (Democrat)
Jarrold Nalder (Democrat)
Jan Schakowsky (Democrat)
Pete Visclosky (Democrat)