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HOUSE PASSES SGR LEGISLATION WITH CONTROVERSIAL OFFSET: Last Friday, the House passed (238-81) legislation to replace the sustainable growth rate (SGR)  that is paid for by capitol webdelaying the implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) individual mandate for 5 years. The vote was passed mostly on party lines, with 12 Democrats voting in favor of the bill. The House bill is not expected to be considered by the Senate, as Democratic leaders have indicated that the offsets were a non-starter for negotiations in that chamber.

SGR BALL IS NOW IN THE SENATE’S COURT: Senate Democrats are expected to bring an SGR bill (S. 2110) to the floor later next week that is compromised of the same SGR replacement policy as the House bill. However, unlike the House bill, the Senate’s bill contains zero offsets and incorporates additional Medicare riders, collectively known as “extenders.” Senate Finance Committee staff have indicated to NASS that their aim between now and next week’s Senate vote will be to convince as many Senate Republicans to support S. 2110. At this time it’s unclear whether Democrats can muster enough votes in the Senate to pass a stand-alone SGR bill without a payfor. When asked how Senate Democratic leaders were planning to persuade their colleagues on the other side of the aisle to pass their bill without offsets, Committee staff indicated that they were very confident in being able to reach an agreement on offsets once the Senate bill is passed. In other words, Democratic Senators are asking Republicans to take a leap of faith by voting to pass the SGR replacement bill without any offsets, and at the same time, giving Republicans assurances that a deal on payfors will be made once the bill goes to a conference between the House and Senate. This course may ultimately be the last path for the SGR to get across the finish line in time before another patch is set to expire by April 1, 2014.

NASS URGES CONGRESS TO ACT BEFORE APRIL FIRST DEADLINE: Last week, NASS sent a letter to House and Senate offices expressing support for the SGR replacement policy that was agreed upon by the three original authoring committees – House Ways & Means, Energy & Commerce and Senate Finance. In the letter, NASS also cautioned lawmakers over the use of partisan payfors that could be used to derail the bi-partisan spirit of the original legislation. NASS will continue to urge all Members of Congress to seek a bi-partisan solution to offset the cost of repealing the SGR. Additionally, NASS will once again gin up its grassroots efforts and urge NASS members to continue to send letters on the SGR to their federal legislators. NASS’ previous call to action generated nearly 500 messages to 104 House and 70 Senate offices.

CMS ISSUES DIRECTION ON MEANINGFUL USE RULES: The Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released guidance on how eligible professionals and hospitals can apply for meaningful use hardship exemptions for the 2014 reporting period based on “2014 Vendor Issues.” The applications for professionals for the 2014 reporting period will be available after July 1, 2014 and will be due by July 1, 2015. For eligible hospitals, hardship applications for the 2014 reporting period will be available after April 1, 2014 and due by April 1, 2015. The exemption notice comes as the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report last week which found that meaningful use of EHR’s may not improve quality and urged the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to make the necessary adjustments to match the projects goals.

PHYSICIANS RUNNING FOR CONGRESS IN 2014: Primary season is upon us, which means we have a pretty good sense of who is running for the House and Senate this year. Physicians’ involvement in the political process has grown over time and this year is no exception. Below you will find the latest list of physicians running for Congress in 2014.

SENATE

  • Georgia, Open Seat

Rep. Paul Broun, MD (R) and Rep. Phil Gingrey, MD, FACOG (R) (Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R) retiring)

Family Physician, OB-GYN

  • Louisiana

Rep. Bill Cassidy, MD (R) vs. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D)

Gastroenterologist

  • North Carolina

Greg Brannon, MD, FACOG (R) and Edward Kryn (R) vs. Sen. Kay Hagan (D)

OB-GYN

  • Oregon

Monica Wehby, MD (R) vs. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D)

Neurosurgeon

  • South Dakota, Open Seat

Annette Bosworth, MD (R) (Sen. Tim Johnson (D) Retiring)

HOUSE:

  • AL 6, Open Seat

Chad Mathis, MD (R) (Rep. Spencer Bachus (R) Retiring)

Orthopedic Surgeon

  • CA 24

Brad Allen, MD (R) vs. Rep. Lois Capps (D)

Thoracic Surgeon

  • CT 4

Joe Bentivegna, MD (R) vs. Rep. Jim Himes (D)

Ophthalmologist

  • CT 5

William Petit, MD (R) vs. Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D)

Endocrinologist

  • FL 19, Open Seat

Paige Kreegel, MD (R) (Rep. Trey Radel resigned)

  • GA 1, Open Seat

Bob Johnson, MD (R) (Rep. Kingston (R) running for Senate)

ENT

  • IA 2

Marionette Miller-Meeks (R) vs. Rep. Dave Loebsack (D)

Ophthalmologist

  • MI 11

Anil Kumar, MD (R) primary challenger vs. Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (R)

Urologist

  • NY 18

Nan Hayworth, MD (R) vs. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D)

Ophthalmologist

  • PA 6, Open Seat

Manan Trivedi, MD (D) (Gerlach (R) retiring)

ER Doc

  • PA 13, Open Seat

Valerie Arkoosh, MD (D) (Rep. Schwartz (D) running for Governor)

Anesthesiologist

  • TX-36, Open Seat

Brian Babin, DDS (R) (vacated Stockman seat) – Won primary, will go to runoff.

Dentist