Senate Adjourned for Recess Without Vote on SGR; House Passed SGR
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
by: Visiting Nurse Associations of America

Section: Public Policy and Advocacy

The House voted 392 - 37 to pass the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (H.R. 2) to permanently replace Medicare's Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR). Read a section by section summary online here. Below are a few key elements of the reform of interest to VNAA Members:

  • Extends the three percent additional payment to rural home health providers through 2017, known as the "rural add-on";
  • Reduces Medicare reimbursement for post-acute care providers by setting the market basket update to no more than one percent in fiscal year 2018;
  • Modifies the Medicare home health surety bond condition of participation which would require home health agencies to have a surety bond for an amount set by the Secretary based off of the volume of payments but no less than $50,000;
  • Extends the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visitation program for two years. This program supports evidence-based home visitation programs for children and mothers;
  • Permanently extends the Qualifying Individuals (QI) program which helps to pay Medicare premiums for certain very low-income Medicare beneficiaries;
  • Extends the dedicated mandatory funding for Federally Qualified Community Health Centers (FQHCs) for two years;
  • Affirms that there are no restrictions on Medicare's ability to reimburse for telehealth services in alternate payment methodologies and authorizes several studies on the definition and implementation of telehealth;
  • Encourages measurable interoperability of health records and require HHS to report to Congress if widespread interoperability is not achieved;
  • Modifies the Meaningful Use Incentives Program to sunset penalties, develop financial incentives, and encourage the use of health IT by providers who are not eligible for the Meaningful Use Program.
  • Funds the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for an additional two years;

The Senate decided to address the legislation when they return from recess on April 13th. Although the current SGR patch expires on March 31, 2015, CMS has the ability to hold claims for 10 business days. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made the announcement during the Senate's marathon budget resolution session that concluded shortly before 3:30 a.m. on Friday morning. VNAA will continue to provide updates as new developments emerge.

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