After a fiery debate on the House floor that nearly ended when Rep. John J. Duncan (R-TN) declared the bill had the requisite two-thirds majority to pass, Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) objected to the vote, saying that a quorum was not present.
That appeared to push back a bill that would have created a temporary Sustainable Growth Rate fix and delayed the ICD-10 compliance deadline.
Only, not so fast.
That was at 10:31 am. Then after quickly moving on to debate supporting the independence of Ukraine, and a short recess, at 12:09 pm the House convened and “on motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill Agreed to by voice vote,”according to the House's Office of the Clerk website.
Before ICD-10 is formally delayed and the SGR fix becomes permanent, however, the Senate has to vote on the proposed legislation and President Obama must sign it into law.
During the 40 minutes of debate prior to the House’s first verbal vote, Pitts cited a Heritage Foundation statement saying that a temporary SGR patch was better than a deficit.
“A vote now is a vote against seniors,” Pitts said. “We are not voting for the AMA today. We’re at a deadline and this is the last vote we’ll have. If you vote no, you’re voting against seniors.”
The American Medical Association surprised ICD-10 observers by circulating a statement urging House members to vote down the proposed legislation – without a mention of the code sets at all – because it wants payment stability for its constituency.
Without a fix to the Sustainable Growth Rate formula, Medicare physicians face a 24 percent reimbursement cut beginning April 1. The debated bill, H.R. 4302, introduced by Joseph Pitts (R-Pa.), proposed replacing the reimbursement cut with a 0.5 percent payment update through the end of 2014, and a zero percent payment update for the period of Jan. 1 through March 31, 2015.
Several House members spoke out against the bill, including Sandy Levin (D-MI).
“This bill is very disappointing,” Levin said. “We got this bill just 24 hours ago.”
Levin continued that serious discussion about how to pay for the permanent fix has been lacking and the result is a complicated bill that several Representatives said is a misstep, and one that House members have yet to even understand.
“I challenge any member to come up here and say I have read this bill,” said Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD). “None of us know what the substance of this bill is. We do not have the courage to rationally fund that agreement. This is a game unworthy of this institution and the American People.”
The leadership, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D–NV), bringing this bill to the floor without most people having had the chance to digest it is what Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called a missed opportunity.
“We should be seeking a bill that would permanently fix SGR,” Pelosi said. “This band-aid is the wrong way to go. It doesn't address the underlying problem. We could have done that, we’ve been trying to for 10 years. It’s always something the Republican majority backs away from.”