On Monday night (March 31), the Senate approved HR 4302—Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014— on a 64-35 vote thus delaying the ICD-10 implementation date to October 1 of 2015—a change from October 1 of this year. The bill now goes to President Obama who is expected to sign it into law.

Importantly, the bill also suspends the projected 24% cut to Medicare Part B payments and extends the therapy caps exceptions process through March 2015.

H.R. 4302, Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014, creates a temporary fix to the Medicare sustainable growth rate (SGR). A 7-line section of the bill states that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) cannot adopt the ICD–10 Code set as the standard until at least October 1, 2015. The healthcare industry had been preparing to switch to the ICD-10 code set on October 1, 2014.

Although audiologists and others providing Medicare services may breathe a temporary sigh of relief, not everyone was happy with the bill’s passage since it represents the 17th patch of the SGR since 1997. Several alternate bills were proposed that entailed wider reforms, but none gained enough political traction. A number of physicians’ groups, including the powerful American Medical Association (AMA) and a coalition of about 90 state and national medical societies, had openly opposed HR 4302 on the grounds that it does not represent a long-term solution to the SGR. However, AMA has also stated that they are against moving to ICD-10, as well.

The delay essentially placates physicians and other Medicare Part B stakeholders, including audiologists, while putting off a long-term solution (and the potentially deep cuts in reimbursement) for a later date.