Hatch advocates legislation to repair formula in Medicare

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a speech on the Senate floor Monday, Finance Committee ranking member Orrin Hatch urged his colleagues to support legislation, H.R. 4302, to extend the “doc fix” for one year and further called on Congress to return to bipartisan, bicameral negotiations to find a responsible path forward on legislation to permanently repeal and replace the broken Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate formula. The Senate is slated to hold a vote on H.R. 4302 later this evening.

The SGR patch we’ll be voting on today isn’t perfect. However, I’m not going to make the perfect the enemy of the good.  The bill before us today is a good faith effort to move the ball forward thanks the good work of Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Reid. What we need now is time to get this done the right way. And, this bill will give us that,” said Hatch.“Once this legislation is signed into law, we need to get back to the negotiating table.  Like I said, there are three committees with jurisdiction over the SGR issue. We all need to work together to find a responsible path forward.  Hopefully, the bill we’ll vote on today will put an end to the unnecessary distractions and roadblocks that have been thrown in our path.

Below is the text of Hatch’s full speech delivered on the Senate floor today:

Mr. President, today the Senate will vote on H.R. 4302, a bill that will extend for one year the so-called Doc Fix relating to the Sustainable Growth Rate – or SGR – formula.

Patching the SGR has become a regular item of business here in Congress.  Indeed, it’s basically an annual ritual that we have to go through here.

From the first day the SGR went into effect in 2002, Congress has acted to prevent its reimbursement cuts to physicians from going into effect in order to ensure the Medicare beneficiaries continue to have access to quality care.

More often than not, SGR patches have been cobbled together at the last minute between the leadership offices of both parties.  They are usually tacked onto larger pieces of legislation without the input of members and without the benefit of going through a committee.

For years, this process has bothered members of Congress who, like me, want to see transparency and regular order returned to the legislative process.

It has also bothered seniors and physicians who are constantly worried about whether the gridlock in Congress is going to finally send them over the SGR cliff.

There is bipartisan support for repealing and replacing the SGR.  And, to the surprise of many, progress has been made to do just that.

For more than a year, a bipartisan, bicameral group of Members of Congress worked to fully repeal the SGR and replace it with more reasonable reforms that move Medicare’s antiquated fee-for-service reimbursement system for physicians toward a system that rewards doctors for providing quality care based on health outcomes.

I was part of that group, as was former Senator Max Baucus.

Chairman Baucus and I worked for months to produce an SGR repeal bill here in the Senate.  Eventually, that bill sailed through the Finance Committee with broad, bipartisan support.

At the same time, the two relevant House Committees – the Ways and Means Committee and the Energy and Commerce Committee – also reported bills to repeal the SGR.

That, in and of itself, would have been quite a feat.  However, we weren’t done yet.

Realizing that we were close to achieving our goal, the Chairmen and Ranking Members of all three relevant committees – that’s three Republicans and three Democrats – decided to come together to find a single unified approach that both parties in both chambers could support.

At the time, there were a lot of naysayers.  Indeed, given Congress’s recent track record, there were reasons to be skeptical.

However, by consulting with all the relevant stakeholders and hearing their recommendations and concerns, we were able to craft a policy that has near-unanimous support across the health care community.

That’s right, Mr. President.  For the first time since the SGR was enacted in 1997, Republicans and Democrats in the House and the Senate are united behind a policy that gets rid of this flawed system once and for all.

However, we can’t get ahead of ourselves.  From the outset of this process, Chairman Baucus and I, along with our House counterparts, agreed that any legislation to repeal and replace the SGR must be fiscally responsible.

Without any offsets, this policy would add roughly $180 billion to the deficit.  If it’s going to pass in both the Senate and the House of Representatives – and if we’re going to maintain the same level of bipartisan support for the package – we need to find offsets that both parties can support.

And, in the months since we reached an agreement on the underlying policy, all the parties involved have been working to find suitable offsets.

I’m not going to lie.  This is a difficult process. But, it has to be done.

Despite the bipartisan goodwill this process has engendered, there have been some who weren’t satisfied with our progress.  And, with today’s SGR deadline looming, there was an effort to hijack this bipartisan process and turn it into yet another partisan sideshow.

With an agreement in place and with parties still at the negotiating table, some of my friends on the other side of the aisle thought it would be preferable to simply bring our bill to the floor and demand a vote either without offsets or with offsets they knew Republicans would not be able to support.

In other words, Mr. President, they wanted force our bipartisan policy through the Senate on a partisan basis and then jam the House with it.

This was, to say the least, disappointing.

Here we have a historic opportunity to do something that will help people throughout this country and to do it with the type of broad, bipartisan consensus that is all too rare in Washington these days.

Yet, there were still some who would prefer to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and set up yet another political showdown destined to end in a partisan stalemate.

Needless to say, I’m glad that, eventually, cooler heads prevailed, which brings us to today’s vote.

The SGR patch we’ll be voting on today isn’t perfect. However, I’m not going to make the perfect the enemy of the good.

The bill before us today is a good faith effort to move the ball forward thanks the good work of Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Reid.

What we need now is time to get this done the right way. And, this bill will give us that.

So, for these reasons, I plan to vote in favor of the SGR bill before us today. I urge my Senate colleagues to do the same.

Once this legislation is signed into law, we need to get back to the negotiating table. Like I said, there are three committees with jurisdiction over the SGR issue.  We all need to work together to find a responsible path forward.

Hopefully, the bill we’ll vote on today will put an end to the unnecessary distractions and roadblocks that have been thrown in our path. I yield the floor.

Submitted by the Office of Sen. Orrin Hatch

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2 Comments

  • Pheo April 1, 2014 at 11:02 am

    Funny that he complains about Democrats no including offsets, or including offsets that Republicans can’t support. There was an agreement on the doc fix and house Republicans tied it to a repeal of Obamacare, as if that was ever going to make it through the senate or past a veto. As long as Republicans tie common-sense, bipartisan legislation to a repeal of Obamacare, they will show that they are not serious about governing, only about scoring cheap political points with the rage class that makes up their base.

  • Dana April 1, 2014 at 2:07 pm

    The only thing Orrin should offer is his resignation.

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