Last week, both the House and Senate passed legislation to prevent a severe cut in the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR), which is a formula that determines how much doctors are reimbursed for treating Medicare and Tricare patients. On June 1st, a 21% cut in the SGR went into effect and many doctors have indicated that the current rate would force them to drop many patients using Tricare and Medicare. The bill passed last week will retroactively restore the previous cut in June and provide a 2.2% increase in the reimbursement rate to keep up with rising medical costs. The new rate will be in effect until November 30, 2010.
The SGR was created in the 1990s as a way to automatically update doctors' reimbursement rates and reduce the deficit. However, over the last several years, the SGR has mandated severe cuts, forcing Congress to act to prevent a disruption in Medicare and Tricare services. Last November, I supported legislation to permanently fix the SGR, but the Senate has yet to act on that bill.
Though I would prefer to see a permanent fix to the SGR, I am pleased we are giving seniors and veterans peace of mind about their health care decisions. This will be an issue we must revisit further down the road, and it is my strong belief that we can't keep passing this problem along for future Congresses to address. I hope the Senate will work with the House to permanently reform the SGR. Our seniors and veterans deserve nothing less.
Conference Report on Iran Sanctions Passes House and Senate
Both the House and the Senate voted overwhelmingly last week to put tough new economic sanctions on Iran. H.R. 2194, the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010, aims to strengthen the 1996 Iran Sanctions Act (ISA). I am a co-sponsor of this legislation, and supported it when it first came before the House in December. The President is expected to sign it into law in the coming days.
A nuclear-armed Iran is one of the biggest threats to our national security. This legislation will pose tough new sanctions on Iran and those who financially support its regime. It's important that we take a strong stance against Iran and make it clear we will not tolerate its continued efforts to expand their nuclear program. Our future security, as well as the security of Israel, will benefit from the passage of this legislation. Israel is our strongest ally in the Middle East and one of our closest friends, and anything we can do to support them is a step in the right direction.
Specifically, H.R. 2194 will impose sanctions on foreign companies that assist Iran in developing its energy resources; establish three new sanctions under the ISA, including prohibitions on access to foreign exchange in the U.S., access to the U.S. banking system, and on property transactions in the U.S.; ban U.S. banks from engaging in financial transactions with foreign banks conducting business with the Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC); strengthen the U.S. trade embargo against Iran by codifying longstanding executive orders; and increase the penalties for violations of the sanctions by U.S. entities.
Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Ray LaHood confirmed last week that the DOT would not immediately move forward with a proposed peanut ban on commercial airline flights. This comes after the DOT released a proposed policy which called for restricting or banning peanuts on airplanes. Responding to my concerns about a ban, Secretary LaHood assured me the DOT has every intention of conducting a congressionally-mandated study before any proposals are implemented.
This is welcome news for peanut producers and the thousands of jobs they create and support. In my opinion, the DOT's proposed ban on peanut distribution is a solution in search of a non-existent problem, and a solution that could be very costly to the economy in southeast Alabama. At the very least, I am pleased that the DOT is taking the proper steps to conduct a study and accept public comment before moving forward.
As always, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call our offices in Montgomery at (334) 277-9113, Dothan at (334) 794-9680, Opp at (334) 493-9253, or Ozark at (334) 445-4600. You can also visit the website at www.bright.house.gov to sign up for the e-newsletter. It is my great pleasure to serve you and the entire Second District of Alabama.