WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a member of the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Health Care, issued the following statement after Senate approval 92-8 of a permanent repeal of the Medicare physician sustainable growth rate (SGR):
“No more will we be kicking the can down the road with another temporary ‘fix’ to the SGR rate. Finally, through bipartisan action, we have brought certainty and peace of mind to patients who have been caught in a seemingly endless loop of patches while they wondered if their doctor would be there to treat them for their illnesses. We now are putting in place a system that does not just eliminate the problem but substitutes a payment system that rewards physicians for taking good care of their patients by managing their care in an effective but cost-efficient way. I am pleased that the bill also provides for an extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which is so critical to the health and well-being of some of our most vulnerable children, although I would have preferred a longer extension of federal funding.
“The latest fix to SGR expired March 31, so we had to take action. I was disappointed that we pushed this vote so far beyond the deadline that we were unable to include the permanent repeal of the therapy caps — despite the fact that it was included in last year’s bipartisan, bicameral legislation. Since established in 1997, these caps on physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech-language pathology services have made no sense. Congress has acted 12 times to prevent the implementation of these caps, acknowledging that arbitrarily capping vital rehabilitation services would likely cause Medicare beneficiaries to delay necessary care, assume higher out-of-pocket costs, and disrupt the continuum of care for many seniors and individuals with disabilities.
“Today we missed another opportunity to remedy that problem and ensure that Medicare beneficiaries will be able to access these critically important rehabilitation services in the future. My amendment would have permanently repealed these arbitrary limits on outpatient therapy services and replaced them with a more rational system, with prior authorization required in certain circumstances. I will continue to fight until we have a permanent solution to ensure that our Nation’s Medicare beneficiaries continue to have access to medically necessary outpatient rehabilitation services.”