March 19,2015

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Charles Pope: 202-224-6854

Wyden Statement Regarding Introduction of SGR Legislation

WASHINGTON – Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., the Senate Finance Committee’s ranking member, offered the following statement Thursday on introduction of legislation to repeal and permanently replace the Sustainable Growth Rate and separate negotiations in the House to replace SGR and address other health care needs:

“My decision today to not add my name to legislation to permanently replace Medicare’s Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula is one I have not taken lightly.  I believe strongly in the policy and the overall objective of what the legislation seeks to achieve:  a better and more effective way to pay doctors and health care providers who treat Medicare patients,” Wyden said.

“However, introduction of this policy appears to be more about pushing an overall package I haven’t seen, rather than about the physician payment reforms my colleagues and I worked so hard to develop.  The inclusive and effective process that brought six committee chairs and ranking members to agreement on a difficult topic has unfortunately not been used to finish the deal.  A bill of this magnitude, on such a tight deadline, requires significant give and take to reach a balanced agreement that can pass both chambers. 

“At this point, it is not clear what our House colleagues will ask America’s seniors and providers to pay, and the impact that new financial demands will have on them both.  An equally important and timely concern is the fate of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).  Every Democrat in the Senate has cosponsored a clean, four-year extension of CHIP as introduced by Sen. Brown (S. 522).  Yet negotiators in the House seem willing to settle for less, even though extending funding for this widely popular program would amount to pennies on the dollar in terms of the total cost of the House package.  There has also been talk of including an abortion policy rider – a complete nonstarter that has no place in a bill about access to care for America’s seniors and children.

“I have worked tirelessly to take the outdated, inefficiency-rewarding SGR and give it a dignified retirement. Last year, when I went to the Senate floor and asked that the Senate pass this policy, I had only been Chairman of the Finance Committee for 16 days.  When there was an objection to full repeal, I voted against the patch.  Then, at the end of the last Congress, I fought again for this replacement policy to be included when Congress wrapped up its work for the year. 

“After 17 patches, I want this policy to become law.  Physicians and beneficiaries alike will benefit from its improvements, and the health care system in this country will be all the better for it.  There is still time to work out a product that, in its entirety, is something Members of both parties in both chambers can support.  This involves major issues of health policy and we are just not there yet.”