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Senators Fight to Protect Solvency of Medicare

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Location: Washington, DC

SENATORS FIGHT TO PROTECT SOLVENCY OF MEDICARE

~Urge Senate Leadership to Move Forward with Implementation of Durable Medical Equipment Competitive Bidding as Part of Medicare Bill~

A bipartisan group of Senators today released a letter that they sent to both Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) early yesterday urging them to oppose a delay of Medicare competitive bidding for durable medical equipment and supplies as part of the Medicare bill moving through Congress.

The letter, signed by Senators John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV (D-WV), Tom Coburn, MD (R-OK), John Kerry (D-MA), Larry Craig (R-ID), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is attached.

Numerous reports by the Government Accountability Office and the Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General indicate that the Medicare program and Medicare beneficiaries have been paying far too much for some medical equipment and supplies and are vulnerable to significant fraud and abuse in this area. Congress authorized nationwide competitive bidding for durable medical equipment and supplies in an attempt to lower beneficiary premiums and address long-standing concerns about fraud and abuse. The competitive bidding pilot programs - in Florida and Texas - saved 19 percent over what Medicare would have paid under existing statutory fees and beneficiary access to products and services remained essentially unchanged. When fully implemented, the competitive bidding program is projected to save Medicare and taxpayers $1 billion annually.

Last night, the House overwhelmingly approved legislation that would make a number of important changes to the Medicare program; however, the bill also included an ill-advised and indefinite delay in the implementation of nationwide competitive bidding.

"Competitive bidding has been successfully tested, and there is no sound reason to impose a delay - of either round. We have an obligation to protect the solvency of the Medicare Trust Fund and to reduce beneficiary premiums whenever possible. We are not obligated to protect the special interests of an industry that has looked for every opportunity to eliminate the competitive bidding program," said Rockefeller.

"It is beyond comprehension why politicians would impose a delay on an open and competitive bidding program in order to cater to special interest and lobbyists. Americans deserve more from their elected leaders in Washington. If Congress doesn't have the courage to implement a simple competitive bidding reform, how can the American people trust Congress to address Medicare fraud at more than $70 billion a year and an unfunded program liability at $85 trillion? This delay is an insult to the American taxpayer," said Dr. Coburn.

"We can't keep Medicare strong for the long term without cutting down on unnecessary spending, fraud, and abuse," said Kerry. "Competitive bidding will crack down on fraudulent providers and guarantee that seniors and the disabled get the best price possible for their medical equipment. This critical reform shouldn't be delayed."

"Competitive bidding is a common-sense policy that can save real money in a Medicare program already facing fiscal challenges," Craig said.

"By delaying Medicare competitive bidding, we're forcing taxpayers, including those on fixed incomes, to pay more than necessary for their medical equipment," said Feinstein. "That's not right and it's not fair - especially as health care costs for Americans continue to skyrocket. It's time we in Congress do our part to improve and modernize Medicare to ensure the best value for taxpayers and beneficiaries."


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