March 12, 2014
Julia Lawless, Antonia Ferrier (202) 224-4515
In Speech, Hatch Outlines Opposition to Senate Democrats 'Doc Fix' Proposal
Utah Senator Says, I want to fix the SGR system once and for all. And I hope that after this pointless exercise designed for political cover that we can come together to do what’s right. Let’s go back to our winning formula and get our bipartisan, bicameral negotiations underway to find a responsible path forward.”
WASHINGTON – In a speech on the Senate floor today, Finance Committee Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said efforts by Senate Democrats to advance bipartisan, bicameral legislation (S. 2000) to fully repeal and replace the broken the broken Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula without paying for it was “another partisan political ploy” and called on Congress to return to bipartisan, bicameral negotiations to find a responsible path forward.
“Democrats want to pass a bill that has a roughly $177 billion price tag without even trying to offset any of the cost,” said Hatch. Sadly, these same Democrats don’t seem to care that they’ve quickly turned what was a true, bipartisan accomplishment into another partisan political ploy. This is deeply disappointing.”
Hatch continued, “I’m interested in a result. I want to fix the SGR system once and for all. And I hope that after this pointless exercise designed for political cover that we can come together to do what’s right. Let’s go back to our winning formula and get our bipartisan, bicameral negotiations underway to find a responsible path forward.”
Below is the text of Hatch’s full speech delivered on the Senate floor today:
Mr. President, I rise today to discuss my disappointment in the recent turn of events involving the Sustainable Growth Rate formula – or the Doc Fix.
Enacted in 1997, the SGR was conceived as a means of trying to balance the budget by restraining health care costs in Medicare.
But it was deeply flawed from the start.
Its reimbursement cuts to physicians would cripple seniors’ ability to get the quality health care they deserve from their doctors.
Consequently since 2002, when the SGR came into effect, Congress has patched it on a regular basis, and there has been bipartisan support for doing so. These “patches” have frequently been cobbled together at the midnight hour between leadership of both parties and included in larger legislation – without the input of members or going through the regular legislative process.
This perverse annual dark-of-night ritual has to stop.
Seniors and physicians understand that.
Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate understand that.
And for the better part of a year, Congress – to the surprise of many – worked to fully repeal the SGR and replace it with more reasonable reforms that move Medicare’s physician fee-for-service reimbursement system toward a system that rewards doctors for providing quality care based on outcomes.
And we made tremendous progress.
Senator Baucus and I worked for months on a bill that sailed through the Finance Committee on a bipartisan basis. The two relevant House committees passed bipartisan legislation repealing the SGR as well.
Then, in a turn of events that is all too rare these days, the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the Senate Finance Committee, the House Ways & Means Committee and the House Energy & Commerce Committee worked tirelessly to come up with one unified policy that House and Senate Democrats and Republicans could all support.
And, we succeeded by involving all stakeholders, including the influential American Medical Association, in a fair and equitable manner that resulted in near-unanimous support across the health care community.
For the first time since its enactment in 1997, the House and Senate united behind a policy that gets rid of this flawed Medicare reimbursement system.
So, Mr. President, if we’ve moved this far, what is the problem?
Why am I disappointed? I’ll tell you.
Last night, I was informed that the Majority Leader is bringing straight to the floor of this body the very policy that we successfully negotiated – tacking on what are known as the health care extenders that the Finance Committee passed, but which were not included in what the House and Senate agreed upon with the SGR.
But – and here’s the problem – the Democrats have no plans to pay for it.
So, Senate Democrats want to pass a bill that has a roughly $177 billion price tag without even trying to offset any of the cost.
And, sadly, these same Democrats don’t seem to care that they’ve quickly turned what was a true, bipartisan accomplishment into another partisan political ploy.
This is deeply disappointing.
Mr. President, I’m very sympathetic to those who say that, since Congress has never let the SGR go into effect, we shouldn’t have to pay for it. But let’s be honest, there’s no way that, right now, a bill that would add close to $200 billion to the deficit is ever going to pass the House.
This is reality, Mr. President.
Democrats in the Senate have blasted the House SGR repeal bill that is paid for by repealing ObamaCare’s individual mandate.
The Senate Majority Leader has said that what the House is doing has “no credibility” and that House Republicans “gotta find something else” to pay for it.
But can’t the very same thing be said of what the Senate Democrats are doing – that their plan has “no credibility” and that they have to find a way of paying for this?
I think we all know the answer to that.
Mr. President, I just don’t understand how we’ve gotten here. I don’t understand why there are these unfortunate attempts to poison a bipartisan product with needless partisanship.
We all want to repeal the SGR, so let’s dispense with the games and get back to work figuring out a real path forward.
What’s even more astonishing is that Senate Democrats are proceeding in this manner on the very week that some of my colleagues are trying to make the Senate work.
Senators Burr and Mikulski have put forward a bill that the Senate is set to consider to reform the Child Care and Development Block Grant program. This was after much work by Senator Alexander and Senator Schumer, to get the Senate working again – to allow amendments and debate.
I commend them.
That’s what I don’t understand, Mr. President.
I have a record of working across the aisle – sometimes to the chagrin of members of my own party. Why turn this bipartisan proposal into a partisan exercise when so many Senators want to work together to fix the problems the American people face each and every day?
Let me be clear, I support what House Republicans have proposed – it is a reasonable approach to paying for a full repeal of the doc fix.
Almost every week the White House delays or repeals another part of ObamaCare, so it’s time for the American people to get a reprieve as well. It’s the right thing to do.
But I’m interested in a result. I want to fix the SGR system once and for all. And I hope that after this pointless exercise designed for political cover that we can come together to do what’s right.
Let’s go back to our winning formula and get our bipartisan, bicameral negotiations underway to find a responsible path forward. Mr. President, I yield the floor.