With a vote of 64 to 35, the Senate passed a one-year “patch” for the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) that included a one-year delay of ICD-10 implementation. The bill will now head to the desk of President Obama for signature.

The vote, held the evening of March 31, pushes the date of ICD-10 implementation to October 1, 2015. Nothing was said about ICD-10 during the vote and it takes up only seven lines in the bill. The portion of the legislation delaying ICD-10 has however, generated significant and mixed responses from the healthcare industry. With millions of dollars already spent preparing for ICD-10 implementation, many health organizations are displeased with the delay, others are relieved that they will have 12 additional months to prepare for the change from the current ICD-9 coding system to the more substantially complex ICD-10 coding system.

The SGR patch legislation focuses on maintenance of Medicare payments for doctors. Without the patch, physician reimbursement would have been cut by almost 24 percent this year. SGR was part of the 1997 Balanced Budget Act and was designed to balance the federal budget by 2002. Congress has repeatedly passed a SGR patch to avoid the required reductions in Medicare payments. This is the 17th SGR patch. The President is expected to approve the bill yet this week.

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