MEDICARE IMPROVEMENTS FOR PATIENTS AND PROVIDERS ACT OF 2008 -- (Extensions of Remarks - June 25, 2008)
HON. RON PAUL
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
TUESDAY, JUNE 24, 2008
* Mr. PAUL. Mr. Speaker, Congress is once again forsaking an opportunity to begin addressing Medicare's long-term fiscal problems. Instead, the legislation before us today, while not without its merits, exacerbates the problems facing Medicare by giving new authority to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), even though CMS's excessive power is a major reason why so many physicians and patients are dissatisfied with the current Medicare system.
* One clear indicator of the lack of seriousness with which this issue is being treated is the fact that this bill is coming before us on suspension, a procedure generally used for noncontroversial legislation, such as bills naming Post Offices. This significant Medicare legislation will receive only 40 minutes of debate, and members will have no opportunity to offer amendments.
* I certainly recognize the need to make adjustments in physicians' payments. Many physicians are already losing money treating Medicare patients, thanks to CMS's low reimbursements and the cost of having to comply with CMS's numerous rules and regulations. Unless Congress acts, many physicians will simply refuse to see Medicare patients. I think we all agree that driving physicians out of the Medicare program is not the proper way to reform the system.
* Therefore, if H.R. 6331 only contained the provisions dealing with the physicians' rate cut, I would vote for it. However, H.R. 6331 further endangers Medicare's fiscal situation by giving almost $20 billion in new funds to CMS, and giving CMS new regulatory authority.
* Instead of simply pretending we can delay the day of reckoning by giving CMS more money and power, we should be looking for ways to shore up Medicare by making cuts in other, lower priority programs, using those savings to ensure the short-term fiscal stability of Federal entitlement programs while transitioning to a more stable means of providing health care for senior citizens. I have been outspoken on the areas I believe should be subject to deep cuts in order to finance serious entitlement reform that protects those relying on these programs. I will not go into detail on these cuts, although I will observe that today the House Committee on Financial Services is planning to authorize billions of new foreign aid spending, perhaps some of those billions might be better spent reforming the Medicare system.
* Congress should also reform the Medicare system by providing Medicare patients more control over their health care than is available under either traditional Medicare or the Medicare Advantage program.
* Mr. Speaker, H.R. 6331 may provide some short-term benefit to Medicare providers, however, it does so by further jeopardizing the long-term fiscal soundness of the Medicare program. Thus, passage of this bill will ultimately damage the very Medicare providers and patients the bill aims to help.