Today, Rep. Wasserman Schultz blasted Senate Republicans for delaying relief to millions of American families and blocking passage of emergency legislation that extends unemployment insurance, COBRA. The legislation also prevents a 20% cut in doctors' Medicare reimbursement rates. The legislation passed the House with unanimous support last week, but is now held up in the Senate by a single Senator --Jim Bunning from Kentucky. This is yet the latest example of Republican obstructionism in the Senate, where their Senators have also threatened to hold up health reform legislation.
"This is no time for political games -- in the end American families lose. In addition to the cuts in unemployment benefits and COBRA, seniors in South Florida may find their doctor will no longer see Medicare patients because doctors immediately had their Medicare reimbursement rates cut by 20 percent," said Rep. Wasserman Schultz. "Florida's seniors, doctors, and unemployed workers can't afford to wait while one Republican Senator plays politics."
The emergency legislation includes a 30-day extension of a range of programs that expired February 28th, including a reversal of cuts in Medicare physician payments to make sure that seniors have reliable access to their doctors. The legislation provides unemployment insurance, help for unemployed workers in paying for health care (COBRA), small business loan guarantees, the highway bill, and flood insurance.
"This bill is a lifeline for families who are struggling to make ends meet," said Rep. Wasserman Schultz. "Without this extension, 49,600 Floridians will lose their unemployment insurance this month, and when they do, they can hold the Republican Party and Senator Bunning accountable. Senator Bunning has placed his own political gain above the needs of the American people."
Due to Senator Bunning's filibuster, nearly 1.2 million out-of-work Americans, including 14,000 in his home state of Kentucky, became ineligible for federal unemployment insurance yesterday. Millions more will lose their unemployment insurance at the end of this month if this obstruction continues.
This Republican ploy is also stopping $925 million in highway reimbursements and transit grants to states this week -- endangering more than 32,000 jobs at the start of the construction season. In addition, some 47 million elderly Americans enrolled in Medicare could lose access to their doctors due to the cut in Medicare physician payments.
"Senate Republicans clearly do not have the best interest of American families-- they are playing procedural politics while Americans are struggling to keep their families afloat," said Rep. Wasserman Schultz. "This is outrageous, and I sincerely hope Senator Bunning will cut this out so that millions of seniors can continue to see their doctor and so that millions of families can get the emergency relief they so desperately need."