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The Physician Payment and Therapy Relief Act of 2010

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Madam Speaker, this bill is a stopgap measure to guarantee that seniors and military families can continue to see their doctors during December while we work on a solution for the next year. Without this legislation, the fees Medicare pays to physicians will be reduced by 23 percent on December 1, this Wednesday. And because TRICARE, the civilian health program for military families and retirees, uses Medicare rates, fees for physicians seeing TRICARE patients would be cut by 23 percent as well.

Madam Speaker, I have to say that kind of cut is obviously not reasonable. We have a responsibility to ensure that Medicare is a steady partner for physicians so that we are able to maintain the kind of excellent access to care that seniors and people with disabilities have come to expect from the program. Medicare enrollees still enjoy better access to care than anyone else in the country. The rate cuts created by the SGR would undermine that trust that seniors and physicians have historically had in the program.

The 111th Congress has passed into law three SGR extensions of less than a year, and this will be the fourth. I think we need to stop legislating SGR policy in 1 to 6 month intervals in order to provide some stability to the Medicare program for 2011. And I hope that before the 111th Congress adjourns, we can pass legislation addressing all of 2011 at a minimum.

I continue to be frustrated that we are unable to move beyond short-term fixes to this major problem facing the Medicare program. The House passed legislation in 2009 that I co-sponsored that would have dealt with this SGR problem for good; but until we have that long-term solution in hand, it is essential that Congress pass this legislation to ensure that seniors and military families do not experience a disruption in seeing their doctors this December.

This legislation, Madam Speaker, is completely paid for over 10 years. According to the rules of the statutory PAYGO law, we aren't supposed to pay for SGR bills; but this one is paid for despite that. It moved through the Senate by unanimous consent.

And so, Madam Speaker, there is no conceivable reason in my opinion to oppose this legislation. I would urge Members to vote ``yes'' on this bill and help me pursue a longer solution before Congress finishes business for this year.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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You know, Madam Speaker, I was very upset to hear the gentleman from California because I thought, for once--and it's very rare around here--as I heard the gentleman from Oregon suggest that he was supporting this bill, that we finally had some bipartisan support and some Republican support for the SGR doctors' fix; but now I listen to the gentleman from California, and he starts suggesting that somehow the Democrats are to blame. Well, let me suggest that the opposite is true.

Back in November of 2009, about a year ago, the Democrats in this House passed a permanent fix. We wouldn't be here today if that legislation had been supported by the Republicans. To his credit, only one Republican--Dr. Burgess, who is a member of my Health Subcommittee--did, in fact, support it, but he was the only one. It is the Republicans' fault that we are constantly dealing with these short-term fixes, because they don't want to take care of the doctors. They don't want to resolve this, and they refused to come to the table and resolve it with us while we were in the majority.

I don't want to go into it too much today because I know there is support on the Republican side of the aisle for this 60-day fix, until December 30; but in talking about the Democrats when the Republicans are the reason we are here today because they would not support the permanent fix and make it so that we didn't have to constantly go back to the table, I think it is totally inappropriate for the gentleman of California to lay blame when, in fact, it is his own party that is to blame.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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