Aaron Fobes, Julia Lawless (202) 224-4515
Hatch Calls on Congress to Pass Bipartisan Plan to Permanently Repeal SGR
In a speech on the Senate floor, Utah Senator Says, “I know there are Senators who have in their minds a vision of what, for them, would be an ideal solution on SGR, CHIP, or any of the other parts of this legislation. But, I’ve been around long enough to know that anyone who waits around for the perfect bill better be prepared to wait for a very, very long time. We’ve waited long enough for a solution on SGR. It’s time to get this done. This is a good bill and it’s coming at the right time.”
WASHINGTON – In a speech today, Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) called on Congress to swiftly pass a bipartisan plan that would permanently repeal and replace the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR), also known as the “Doc Fix”, with an improved payment system that rewards quality, efficiency, and innovation.
“The time to act is now. I can’t imagine another bipartisan opportunity like this coming around again anytime soon. Anyone who thinks we can continue to put this off – to wait around for that perfect bill to come together – is fooling themselves. Make no mistake, if we don’t do this now, we’re looking at many more years of last-minute, costly SGR patches,” said Hatch.
The complete speech, as prepared for delivery, is below:
Mr. President, I want to take a few minutes to talk about the House’s ongoing efforts to replace the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate, or SGR, formula.
As we all know, the House is poised to pass legislation that would permanently repeal and replace the SGR with an improved payment system that rewards quality, efficiency, and innovation. This bipartisan exercise represents what Congress is truly capable of when members decide to set aside their differences and work together.
Since SGR first went into effect, Congress has continually acted to prevent its reimbursement cuts from taking place. This has meant numerous and repetitive SGR patches, usually cobbled together at the last minute behind closed doors.
For years, this cycle has bothered members of Congress from both parties. That’s why, over two years ago, former Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus and I set out to fix this problem once and for all on the Senate side.
People said it was a lost cause and that our efforts were doomed from the start. But, in late 2013, we introduced our legislation and got it reported out of the Finance Committee on a voice vote. That bill, which was also drafted with the input and support of the leaders on the relevant committees in the House of Representatives, formed the basis for the legislation the House will be voting on this week.
It has taken a lot of work to get to this point. And, we’re not there yet. But, we’re getting close, Mr. President. We just need to finish the job.
The House bill is important for a number of reasons. Yes, it includes the plan to repeal and replace the broken SGR system. But, there’s more to it.
The bill also includes a two-year extension of CHIP and a temporary extension of key Medicare extenders that need immediate Congressional action. This will give the relevant committees time to reform these programs in a responsible manner.
It also includes provisions to strengthen Medicare’s ability to fight fraud and bolster existing program integrity efforts.
And, most importantly, the bill includes a down payment on entitlement reform without any tax hikes.
For years, members of Congress have been pushing for legislative fixes that will help rein in our unsustainable entitlement programs to ensure that they’re around for future generations. I, personally, have been working very hard on this effort.
In 2013, I put forward five separate reform proposals to Medicare and Medicaid that were designed to be bipartisan in hopes that I could jumpstart the conversation on entitlement reform. I shared those proposals with anyone who would listen and even some, including President Obama, who would not.
Today, I’m happy to say that two of those ideas – the limitation on so-called Medigap first-dollar coverage and more robust means testing for Medicare Parts B and D – are included in the House’s SGR bill.
For years, the idea of bipartisan Medicare reform seemed like a pipe dream, particularly as President Obama and his allies in Congress demanded that any changes to the program be coupled with significant tax hikes. But, here we are, just a few votes away from enacting meaningful Medicare reforms into law.
I want to commend Speaker Boehner and Minority Leader Pelosi for their efforts to reach a deal on this legislation. In addition to the leaders of the relevant committees, their work and their willingness to set aside partisanship for the greater good have been vital to this effort. This has not been easy by any stretch of the imagination.
It was also encouraging to hear today that President Obama says he intends to sign the bill. Specifically, he said, about this SGR legislation: “I’ve got my pen ready to sign a good, bipartisan bill.” It’s my understanding that an official Statement of Administration Policy will be forthcoming.
Now, I’m not here to say that the House bill is perfect. It’s not.
And, I’m aware that some of my colleagues here in the Senate are hesitant to support this package and have made public statements indicating as much. Ultimately, I think anyone who is looking for a reason to vote no on the House bill could probably dig through it and find something to oppose. This is true of any bill of this magnitude, especially in a divided government. Although, I do have to say that some of the straw-man arguments raised over the past week or so against this legislation have been interesting, to say the least.
I know there are Senators who have in their minds a vision of what, for them, would be an ideal solution on SGR, CHIP, or any of the other parts of this legislation. But, I’ve been around long enough to know that anyone who waits around for the perfect bill better be prepared to wait for a very, very long time.
We’ve waited long enough for a solution on SGR. It’s time to get this done.
This is a good bill and it’s coming at the right time.
The time to act is now. I can’t imagine another bipartisan opportunity like this coming around again anytime soon. Anyone who thinks we can continue to put this off – to wait around for that perfect bill to come together – is fooling themselves. Make no mistake, if we don’t do this now, we’re looking at many more years of last-minute, costly SGR patches.
Let’s get this done, Mr. President. I hope all of my colleagues will support the House’s SGR package.
I yield the floor.
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