The following statements from Senators Baucus and Grassley regarding their competing Medicare bills are
unedited and do not reflect AARP’s position.
If Congress doesn’t act, the physicians who treat Medicare patients will face a 10.6 percent pay cut, effective July 1. Such a dramatic cut would very likely hurt older Americans’ access to their doctors. A big number of doctors might stop dealing with Medicare altogether.
The Republican bill prevents the cut and gives a small payment increase to keep doctors serving Medicare patients. The physician payments are the same as in the Democratic leaders’ bill. Neither bill is more generous than the other to doctors.
The Republican bill has several other Medicare improvements. It increases payments to doctors who report quality data to the government to help link payments with quality. It promotes value-based purchasing, e-prescribing to reduce medication errors, and electronic health records. It includes responsible proposals to preserve Medicare access in rural areas, including much-needed payment improvements for rural hospitals and home health care. It returns the ownership of oxygen equipment to the supplier, not the beneficiary, so the beneficiary doesn’t have to get the equipment serviced. It cracks down on abusive sales tactics by Medicare Advantage plans and makes plan quality information available to beneficiaries for comparison shopping. It improves cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation, renal care, diabetes prevention, and outpatient therapy. It extends programs to help low-income seniors and families.
Unlike the Democratic leaders’ bill, the Republican bill does not:
* cut payments for power wheelchairs;
* reduce payments for oxygen;
* make large, unwarranted cuts to Medicare Advantage, altering policy decisions designed to maximize patient choice;
* eliminate the fund that Congress specifically created to help avert future physician cuts; or
* expand eligibility for low-income Medicare programs, which although well-intentioned, would increase long-term entitlement spending and expand coverage under an already fiscally challenged program.
Maybe most important, the President will sign the Republican bill. The President would veto the Democratic leaders’ bill. Meanwhile, the Democratic leaders walked away from bipartisan negotiations and put a timely outcome of this effort in jeopardy. The Republican bill does everything Medicare beneficiaries need to protect their access to
doctors and prevent a physician revolt. There’s nothing in it that Democratic leaders would find objectionable if they put aside their political lens and looked at it as Medicare beneficiaries and taxpayers.
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