Senate Democrats

In Letter, Reid Urges GOP To Act Quickly To Protect Seniors’, Veterans’ Health Care

Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid sent the following letter today to Republican Senators Mitch McConnell, Jon Kyl and Charles E. Grassley, urging them to end their opposition to the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act.  Republican opposition to the bipartisan bill is creating significant uncertainty for Medicare providers and beneficiaries.   

“You note that there is no reason for Congress to have recessed for the July 4th holiday without having addressed expiring Medicare provisions,” Reid writes.  “While I could not agree more with this view, your actions on this matter lie in direct contradiction with this statement.  Just days before you wrote these words, each of you voted to deny the Senate the ability to consider H.R. 6331 which the House had passed by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 355-59.” 

The full text of the letter is below:

July 8, 2008

The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Minority Leader
United States Senate
Washington, DC  20510

The Honorable Jon Kyl
Assistant Minority Leader
United States Senate
Washington, DC  20510

The Honorable Charles E. Grassley
Ranking Member, Committee on Finance
United States Senate
Washington, DC  20510

Dear Senators:

I am writing in response to your letter to me dated July 3 regarding H.R. 6331, the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008.  In your letter, you note that there is no reason for Congress to have recessed for the July 4th holiday without having addressed expiring Medicare provisions.  While I could not agree more with this view, your actions on this matter lie in direct contradiction with this statement.  Just days before you wrote these words, each of you voted to deny the Senate the ability to consider H.R. 6331 which the House had passed by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 355-59.  Moreover, you consented to a legislative process that ruled out amendments to H.R. 6331 and then apparently used the process you agreed to convince Senators to block the bill.

These games cannot and should not continue.  H.R. 6331 would eliminate the 10.6 percent Medicare physician fee cut and provide a 1.1 percent update in payments.  This is critical not only to our seniors and physicians, but also to the military families who rely on TRICARE which ties its payments to Medicare.  In addition, H.R. 6331 would protect access to therapy services, add new preventive benefits to the program, reduce out-of-pocket costs for beneficiaries seeking mental health care, and improve low-income assistance.  The bill would provide important improvements for our nation’s pharmacies, rural providers, and beneficiaries, while postponing the competitive bidding program for Durable Medical Equipment (DME). 

The bill takes only modest steps to reducing Medicare payments to private plans in ways you have included in earlier proposals.  Your objections to this bipartisan legislation seem to hinge on ensuring that private fee-for-service plans comply with the same quality requirements that other Medicare Advantage plans must meet.  The time has come to set aside the interests of a handful of insurance companies, and to put seniors and military families first. 

Your actions in opposing this bipartisan bill are causing significant disruption and uncertainty for Medicare providers and beneficiaries.  In addition, you are putting access to care for the military families who rely on TRICARE at risk.  Your suggestion of a 31-day extension is as disingenuous as it is ineffective.  It will only offer patients and doctors uncertainty and administrative headaches.  H.R. 6331 is responsible, bipartisan legislation that will provide 18 months of guaranteed relief. 

This week, I will offer you the opportunity to reconsider your vote on this bill.  I hope Senate Republicans will join with House and Senate Democrats and the majority of House Republicans to support seniors, people with disabilities, military families, and health care providers by voting for the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008.

Sincerely,

Harry Reid
Majority Leader

Cc:  Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin
Chairman Max Baucus, Senate Finance Committee

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