The Senate adjourned for a 2-week recess early on March 27, leaving without taking action on House-passed legislation to repeal the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate formula and reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

The Senate will not convene again until April 13, nearly 2 weeks after a temporary SGR patch expires. Doctors will see their Medicare pay cut by 21% on April 1.

As has happened in the SGR’s troubled past and for other reasons, doctors and legislators expect the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to hold Medicare payments for a while until the Senate can act.

“We’ve seen CMS hold checks for 2 weeks. We know that can happen,” Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas), lead sponsor of H.R. 2, the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act, told reporters. “If it doesn’t pass this week, the world wouldn’t come to an end.”

A 2-week hold generally does not impact physicians’ practices too harshly, Dr. Robert Wergin, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, said regarding an administrative hold CMS announced in January 2015. “It does affect your cash flow, but it has happened in the past, particularly around the time with SGR patches.”

The American Medical Association called for the Senate to address H.R. 2 as soon as it returns.

“Physicians are always working to provide the highest quality of care for their patients and the bipartisan bill passed by the House provides a clear pathway for them to do that,” Dr. Robert Wah, president of the AMA, said in a statement. “We urge the Senate to immediately address this issue upon their return and once-and-for-all lay this destructive issue to rest by building the stable and sustainable Medicare program that our nation’s patients and physicians need and deserve.”

dfulton@frontlinemedcom.com

On Twitter @denisefulton

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