Senate Democrats

Obstruction Alert – Republicans Block Bipartisan Medicare Bill That Prevents Cut in Doctor’s Payments And Takes Care of Seniors

The bipartisan Medicare Bill prevents the looming ten percent cut in payments to doctors that is scheduled to take effect at the end of the month. But it also goes much further in improving Medicare coverage for seniors and reducing their costs. The bill pays for improvements and prevents the payment cut by reining in overpayments to some private Medicare plans. In contrast, the Republican bill only prevents the cut in doctor’s payments but does nothing to improve care or help seniors with rising health care costs. Additionally, the Republican bill does nothing to reform the private fee-for-service plans that are being vastly overpaid – up to 117 percent of traditional Medicare rates. Unfortunately, Bush-McCain Republicans chose to protect the special interests instead of siding with Democrats to make these critical improvements to Medicare and protect our seniors.

Bush-McCain Republicans block medicare bill that prevents cut in doctor’s payments, helps seniors:

Bipartisan Medicare Bill Prevents 10.6 Percent Cut in Doctor’s Payments. “Specifically, the Baucus bill would replace a 10.6 percent scheduled cut in physician payments with a 0.5 percent increase in their payments this year and an additional 1.1 percent increase in 2009.” [CQ Today, 6/11/08]

Bipartisan Medicare Bill Increases Preventive Care Coverage. “First, it expands access to preventive services. Preventive care can identify health problems before they become health catastrophes. To help beneficiaries identify medical conditions and risk factors early, this bill allows new preventive services to be added to the program, so long as they are recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and approved through regular regulatory channels.” [Senator Baucus Floor Speech, 6/11/08]

Bipartisan Medicare Bill Ends Higher Co-Pay Rates For Mental Health Services, Bringing Them in Line With Physical Health Care Services. “Many older Americans experience depression and other mental health problems, but Medicare currently requires a much higher co-payment for mental health services. That co-payment is 50 percent – compared to the 20 percent required for physical health care services. This legislation lowers co-payments for seniors’ mental health services until they match other co-pays – making sure that seniors can afford the screening and treatment they need.” [Senator Baucus Floor Speech, 6/11/08]

Bipartisan Medicare Bill Provides Assistance for Low-Income Seniors. “Medicare pays many health costs for seniors, but some low-income beneficiaries need extra help to afford even basic care. And although subsidies are available through the Medicare Savings Programs, or MSPs, beneficiaries must prove their assets are low enough to qualify. The assets test for these programs has not been raised since 1989 – even though the cost of living, and certainly the cost of medical care, has increased astronomically since then. The bill takes an important step to improve access for these beneficiaries by increasing the level of savings that MSP applicants may have and still qualify for help. We also discount the value of life insurance policies and financial help from churches or family members from counting against a senior’s eligibility for assistance.” [Senator Baucus Floor Speech, 6/11/08]