Senate Repeals SGR, But Physical Therapy Cap Remains

Senate Approves SGR Repeal, Keeps Therapy Cap and Exceptions Process

The US Senate voted Tuesday to approve a bill that repeals the flawed sustainable growth rate (SGR) and moves toward payment systems based on quality, but, despite a concerted, historic grassroots advocacy effort, does not end the Medicare outpatient therapy cap. The therapy cap repeal amendment was defeated by a 58-42 vote, coming up just short of the 60 votes needed for passage.

Instead of a full repeal, the therapy cap exceptions process will extend until December 31, 2017.

The vote on the SGR ends a flawed system for payment that would have resulted in 21% reductions in Medicare payments to providers. The bill approved by the Senate passed with an overwhelming 92-8 vote, and President Barack Obama has stated that he will sign it into law. The bill was approved by the House in late March.

Among the most significant features of the bill are the ways it sets the stage for a transition to value-based health care services, and away from the fee-for-service model—a shift strongly supported by APTA.

The effort to include an amendment to end the therapy cap was championed by Sen Ben Cardin (D-MD) along with Sen David Vitter (R-LA), and was the focus of an intensive effort by APTA, its members, supporters, and other organizations to urge senators to vote in favor. In the end, the amendment was 1 of only 6 allowed to be considered, and among those 6, garnered 1 of the highest number of votes in favor.

"Ending the SGR is good news not just because it ends a flawed policy, but because it's helping to transform payment models," said Justin Moore, PT, DPT, APTA executive vice president of public affairs. "We are of course disappointed that the therapy cap repeal effort was not successful, but thanks to the hard work of APTA members and supporters, we were able to seize an historic moment and move this issue closer to the goal line than at any time in the 18-year history of the cap. We will capitalize on this energy, unity, and momentum, and will never stop working for the best interests of patients."

APTA will provide further information and resources on the provisions passed in the SGR bill over the coming weeks and will continue to influence its implementation with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

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