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House Medicare doc fix attracts 12 Democrats

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Members of the House today voted 238-181 to pass H.R. 4015 — a bill that could overhaul the way traditional Medicare plans try to hold down physician fee increases.

The bill would replace a “sustainable growth rate” (SGR) system created in the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 that’s supposed to tie increases in Medicare physician pay to increases in the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP).

The bill — introduced by Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas — includes a provision that would postpone enforcement of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) individual mandate.

Physician fees have grown faster than GDP almost every year since 1997, and Congress has always postponed the effective date of the SGR system. Letting the SGR system take effect this year could cut reimbursement rates about one-quarter.

Last summer, Democrats and Republicans in the House said they agreed on the principle of trying to use efficiency and quality incentives to replace the SGR fee-setting system.

But the inclusion of the individual mandate delay provision kept most Democrats from supporting H.R. 4015. Just 12 Democrats crossed the aisle to vote for the bill.

All Republicans who participated voted for the bill.

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