REPEALING THE MEDICARE PHYSICIAN FEE CUT
Mr. GRAHAM of South Carolina. Mr. President, I express my support for repealing the Medicare physician fee cut. The issue of reimbursements for physicians who treat Medicare patients has been an ongoing battle. Currently, these reimbursements are inadequate and inefficiently paid through a bureaucratic system. Some physicians have been even been forced to refuse Medicare recipients due to these inappropriate reimbursement levels. With so many Medicare recipients who need medical services in South Carolina, the situation with low reimbursements poses a challenge to both physicians and patients.
I have supported updating and increasing the reimbursements physicians receive under the Medicare program. The schedule of fee cuts for these reimbursements has been temporarily suspended due to the actions of Congress. I supported legislation to repeal physician fee cuts for both fiscal year 2002 and 2003. However, in October 2003, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, CMS, reported that the physician fee cut for 2004 would be 4.5 percent. This necessitates a further repeal to ensure this fee cut does not move forward.
While annual repeals of the physician fee cuts are vital, I also support a substantive change to the reimbursement calculations so physicians are not held in limbo each year regarding their fee updates. I am hopeful that Congress will address this issue in a comprehensive manner.
Since I support legislative action to make sure this cut is repealed and to ensure future repeals are dealt with effectively, I am exceedingly concerned that the most current repeal in the Medicare physician fee cut is contained within the mammoth Medicare prescription drug bill. This blocks me voting solely on the merit of the repeal.
I have many reasons a to why I plan to oppose the Medicare prescription drug bill conference report. None of my reasons are concerns with the Medicare physician fee cut repeal. Rather, my opposition stems from the lack of real cost containment of the program, exclusion of true Medicare reform, the weakening of the premium support issue, the treatment of "dual eligibles" coverage, and other issues related to oncology drugs, durable medical equipment, DME, and local pharmacies.
It frustrates me that this latest repeal is in a bill with literally dozens of other Medicare provisions in a $400 billion dollar bill. While I cannot support the Medicare prescription drug bill, I will continue to support the repeal of next year's Medicare physician fee cut and addressing the ongoing issue of fee cuts in a comprehensive manner. I am hopeful that our leadership will give us a vehicle for a straight up or down vote on this issue.