In an ongoing effort to implement strategies to strengthen and secure Medicare for current and future retirees, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health voted in support of Congressman Murphy's bipartisan Strengthening Medicare And Repaying Taxpayers (SMART) Act on Monday. Murphy's bill would eliminate bureaucratic delays in the Medicare system and help ensure that seniors who are injured receive the proper settlement in a timely manner.
Under the "Medicare Secondary Payer' statute, insurers, retailers, and third parties must repay Medicare if their negligence leads to medical bills for a senior citizen. But the current system is complicated and riddled with delays, preventing these cases from closing and bringing in money owed to the Medicare Trust Fund.
Murphy's bill requires Medicare provide the parties with accurate information about the total cost of medical bills when the parties announce a settlement is near. Without coming to a settlement, Medicare cannot recoup the money and beneficiaries are often left footing the bill. The SMART Act breaks down the bureaucratic hurdles that prevent Medicare and private insurers from closing out medical billing cases in a timely manner.
"Hundreds of millions of dollars that should be deposited in the Medicare Trust Fund continue to be blocked by a complicated system of arcane rules," said Rep. Murphy. "By recouping the billions of dollars owed by insurance companies to Medicare, my bill strengthens the Medicare Trust Fund and protects medical benefits for millions of seniors."
Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton said, "The Strengthening Medicare and Repaying Taxpayers Act, or SMART Act, introduced by Dr. Murphy creates efficiencies in the Medicare Secondary Payer program that benefit taxpayers and seniors alike. During last year's hearing, several flaws in the program were identified that resulted in seniors losing Medicare coverage and settlements ending up in escrow. H.R.1063 makes improvements to the current program that will facilitate speedier settlements as well as repayment to the Medicare Trust Fund."
Murphy's bill was the focus of an Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Hearing last June. At the hearing, members learned the impact that extremely long delays have on the financial stability of Medicare and on beneficiaries who are owed settlements due to medical malpractice, liability or workers compensation. Testimony from expert witnesses revealed from those who have experienced first-hand the problems that arise with extensive delays in the system, including a compelling argument from Pittsburgh attorney Jason Matzus, who represents Medicare beneficiaries.
The SMART Act now heads to the full Committee on Energy & Commerce for a vote before floor consideration in the House.