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December 28, 2011
© 2011 College of American Pathologists
Special Report
SGR and TC Grandfather Extended Thru February

December 28—Late last week, Congress temporarily put aside partisan differences and agreed to temporarily delay the 27.4% Medicare physician pay cut scheduled for January 1, 2012. The bill extends 2011 Medicare physician pay rates for 60 days, as well as the TC-Grandfather and other provisions. In that time, Congress is expected to hammer out a long term compromise. However, the bill also extends the payroll tax holiday and unemployment insurance benefits for the long term unemployed, and both sides are already squaring off for a debate that is likely to begin as soon as Congress returns.

When Congress reconvenes in January, it will have until the end of February to reach agreement on whether any of these provisions should be extended further, and if so, how to pay for them. It is the “pay-fors” that squashed any near deals in the past, and so far, no compromises have been announced. Negotiations will be conducted under the auspices and rules of a Conference Committee, a committee of 20 House and Senate members representing both parties. Appointment to the committee is strategic, and the payroll tax holiday and extension of unemployment benefits typically grab the headlines, the SGR fix, is also a big ticket item in the package that must be addressed to avoid a double digit payment cut in 2012. There are two physician members, Reps. Tom Price (R-GA), and Nan Hayworth (R-NY) as well as one nurse, Rep, Renee Ellmers (R-NC) on the Conference Committee.

The list of Conference Committee appointees so far includes: SENATORS: Max Baucus (D-MT), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee; Jack Reed (D-RI); Ben L. Cardin (D-MD); Bob Casey (D-PA); REPRESENTATIVES: Sander M. Levin (D-MI); Chris Van Hollen (D-MD); Xavier Becerra (D-CA); Henry A. Waxman (D-CA); Allyson Y. Schwartz (D- PA); Dave Camp (R-MI); Fred Upton (R-MI); Tom Price (R-GA); Greg Walden (R-OR); Renee Ellmers (R-NC); Tom Reed (R-NY); Nan Hayworth (R-NY); Kevin Brady (R-TX). Senate Republicans have yet to name their appointees.

Most Hill watchers believe the committee will try to hammer out a one year extension of the payroll tax cut along with halting the SGR cut. Other Medicare extenders, including any extension of the TC “grandfather” will also be hammered out in the conference committee. Since the House did not support an extension of the “grandfather” in its initial bill, CAP is continuing its strong advocacy and grassroots efforts to persuade lawmakers to include it in the final bill.

Statline will continue to follow this story and report as events unfold.

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