House Acts to Block Medicare Physician Cuts
Congressman Dale E. Kildee today voted to maintain seniors' access to their own physicians. H.R. 6331, the Medicare Improvements to the Patients and Providers Act of 2008, would relieve physicians who accept Medicare beneficiaries of a 10 percent cut in payments, which might otherwise force many physicians to deny Medicare patients. The bill passed in the House by an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 355-59.
"This bill will ensure that seniors have access to their own physician - whom they know and trust. Drastic cuts in the payments to physicians who accept Medicare patients will push good doctors out of the program," said Kildee. "Our seniors deserve the opportunity to continue seeing the doctors that are familiar with their own unique histories and medical backgrounds."
The bill prevents a 10.6 percent pay cut to physicians that is scheduled to take place on July 1, and provides a 1.1 percent update beginning January 1, 2009. The bill also includes important beneficiary improvements such as Medicare mental health parity, greater rural access, and enhanced assistance for low-income beneficiaries.
The Medicare Improvements to the Patients and Providers Act would:
* Prevent the 10.6 percent pay cut to physicians scheduled to take effect July 1, with rates holding steady for the rest of 2008, and provide a 1.1 percent update for 2009;
* Enhance assistance to rural providers by expanding access to tele-health service, increasing payments to sole community and critical access hospitals, and preserving payment equity for rural physicians and hospitals that run clinical laboratories; and
* Extend and improve low-income assistance programs for Medicare beneficiaries whose income is below $14,040. This includes the "Qualified Individual" program which pays part B premiums for low-income beneficiaries with incomes of $12,480 to $14,040 a year; and
* Provide beneficiary investments of $4 billion over 5 years and $16.6 billion over ten years. Investments include increasing asset levels to help more beneficiaries qualify for premium assistance, Medicare mental health parity, and increased coverage for preventive services.
Unless Congress enacts legislation before July 1, the 10.6 percent cut will take effect. The Senate has not yet passed legislation to avoid cuts to Medicare physician payments.