Obama Signs SGR Patch, Delay of Two-Midnight Rule Into Law

President Barack Obama has signed legislation into law that will protect physicians from a steep pay cut under Medicare's sustainable growth rate for one year.

The new law protects physicians until the end of March 2015 from a 24 percent reimbursement reduction due to take effect today under the SGR. The patch would be the latest in a series of short-term legislative solutions Congress has enacted every year since 2003 to stave off double-digit Medicare pay cuts for physicians under the SGR.

The law also delays enforcement of the controversial two-midnight rule by six months. According to the policy, inpatient admissions spanning at least two midnights qualify for Medicare Part A payments. Inpatient stays lasting fewer than two midnights must be treated and billed as outpatient services. Enforcement was previously scheduled to begin this October.

Finally, the law delays the implementation of ICD-10 to Oct. 1, 2015. Last week, the American Health Information Management Association called on its members to contact members of Congress and voice opposition to the bill. CMS has estimated a one-year delay of ICD-10 could cost between $1 billion and $6.6 billion, according to AHIMA.

The House and Senate passed the measure despite opposition from the American Medical Association, which has pushed for a permanent SGR solution rather than another temporary fix. "Full repeal of the sustainable growth rate formula is the answer to strengthening the Medicare program, not another patch," AMA President Ardis Dee Hoven, MD, said in a statement released by the organization.

The House has passed a bipartisan measure that would permanently solve the SGR issue by repealing the formula and replacing it with a payment system that incentivizes physicians to provide high-quality, low-cost care. However, the bill hasn't passed the Senate, and the White House has indicated President Barack Obama will veto the legislation if it reaches his desk because of an amendment delaying the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's individual mandate.

More Articles on the SGR:
Senate Passes Bill Delaying SGR Cuts, Two-Midnight Rule
Senate Approves ICD-10 Delay
Can ICD-10 Be Optional In 2014? 

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