Congress Passes Legislation to Avoid SGR Cuts for Ten Months

The House and Senate passed a revised version of H.R. 3630, the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, which guarantees that physicians will avoid a 27.4 percent cut in Medicare reimbursement for an additional ten months. Instead of the schedule cuts which were expected to be enacted on March 1, physician payment rates will be frozen at their current level through December 31, 2012. In addition to addressing the latest cuts accredited to the flawed Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula, the 20 members of Congress participating in the Conference Committee were tasked with developing a bill to extend unemployment insurance benefits and the payroll tax holiday. The total cost of the proposal is estimated at $150 billion with the “doc fix” portion of the legislation expected to cost approximately $18 billion.

Recognizing the key role Radiology plays in the health care delivery process, federal lawmakers did not include any cuts to diagnostic imaging services within H.R. 3630. Lawmakers ultimately settled on another, short-term SGR “patch” because the high cost of a permanently repealing the flawed formula is estimated to cost $319 billion.

Ultimately, the members of the Conference Committee chose to keep the scope of H.R. 3630 focused on preventing the SGR cuts, as well as extending unemployment insurance benefits and the payroll tax holiday. As a result, H.R. 3269, the Diagnostic Imaging Services Access Protection Act, was not added to the final legislation passed by the House and Senate on Friday, Feb. 17. Yet, H.R. 3269 and the effort to block the 25 percent multiple procedure payment reduction (MPPR) to the professional component (PC) of advanced diagnostic imaging services continues to gain tremendous momentum in the House of Representatives and now has generated 196 bipartisan cosponsors.

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