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The following statements from Senators Baucus and Grassley regarding their competing Medicare bills are unedited and do not reflect AARP’s position.
The laws governing Medicare have a big influence on seniors’ access to health care, and on the quality of the care they receive. As Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, I’ve introduced the “Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008” to update Medicare laws and make the program work better for every single American senior. It’s the best bill Congress can pass for seniors this year.
The Baucus bill starts by helping more low-income seniors get help with their Medicare premiums. It has incentives for more primary care doctors to take Medicare patients. It allows for more preventive care in Medicare, to keep seniors healthier, and lowers co-payments for mental health services. It provides more money to rural hospitals, ambulance services, and other facilities to make sure seniors get quality care no matter where they live. It cracks down on shady marketers selling seniors on private plans they don’t need or want. And it makes sure local pharmacists get paid promptly for dispensing medicines under the drug benefit, to keep affordable medications available everywhere.
The Baucus bill is responsible, too, paying for these improvements with smart savings found elsewhere in Medicare. It’s important for you to know that these savings in no way endanger any senior’s access to health coverage, health care, or medical equipment. Rather, savings come from strengthening the rules applied to private fee-for-service plans – which are paid 17 percent more than the amount paid to other Medicare providers – and by reducing overpayments to wheelchair and oxygen providers, who sometimes receive more than 1000 percent of the cost of the equipment they supply. In most cases, these changes will even reduce seniors’ out-of-pocket co-payments while also saving taxpayer dollars.
The President threatens to veto this bill, but I believe Congress should do the very best it can for seniors, and pass the Medicare bill that does the most for all who use the program. The Baucus bill goes the extra mile – particularly for rural and low-income seniors – while giving doctors a decent payment increase that won’t explode costs or inflate premiums. And the Baucus bill saves money in Medicare without endangering anyone’s access to care. I’ll work with other Senators and even the White House to get a good bill signed into law. But the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act is the right start to make Medicare better for every American senior.

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