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Mr. KIND. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Madam Speaker, I rise in strong support of H.R. 1845. It's a combination of two strong, bipartisan commonsense bills before the House today. I want to thank the gentleman on the Ways and Means Committee, Mr. Brady, for his support of this important legislation.
As one of the coauthors of the SMART Act, one of the bills that have been combined today, with Representative Tim Murphy, and as an original cosponsor of the Medicare IVIG Access Act, I'm glad these two bipartisan bills have been combined and brought to the floor for consideration and hopefully passage later today.
The SMART Act had 139 bipartisan cosponsors; the Medicare IVIG Access Act, with 65 bipartisan cosponsors, are perfect examples of, at times, Democrats and Republicans joining forces and getting something done around this place. And hopefully that spirit will continue in the days to come with the difficult decisions that face this body.
I would like to thank my good friend Tim Murphy for his leadership and hard work in moving the SMART Act through the Energy and Commerce Committee. I'd also like to recognize the extraordinary, broad stakeholder coalition that has worked so hard to help get the SMART Act on the floor today, particularly the American Association For Justice and the MARC Coalition.
Finally, I want to thank Representative Brady and Doris Matsui for their tireless efforts on behalf of the Medicare IVIG Access Act. Their legislation is a step toward ensuring all seniors with primary immunodeficiency diseases are able to access life-saving IVIG drugs in their own home.
But let me just take a few minutes to discuss the need for the SMART Act. The SMART Act reforms the badly broken Medicare secondary payer system. For background, the Medicare secondary payer system requires Medicare to recoup the cost of hospital and doctor bills for a senior if her injuries are the responsibility of a private insurer or some other third party. So far so good. Making sure Medicare doesn't pay for injuries caused by another third party is good policy to help keep Medicare solvent.
The problem is that under the current system, seniors and parties that want to settle a claim often cannot determine how much they owe Medicare. That often results in the settlements collapsing. The result is that seniors are denied settlements to compensate for their injuries, and the Medicare trust fund is never reimbursed. That's bad for seniors, and it's bad for the Medicare program. We're talking about cases where seniors are trying to give money back to the government and the government simply won't say how much they owe it. It's outrageous that seniors can't even give money back to Medicare that the government is owed because the system is broken down.
At a time when Congress is considering cuts to the Medicare benefits and provider payments, we need to at least make sure that Medicare is getting the money seniors want to send it.
The SMART Act will improve the Medicare secondary payer system by making the government work more efficiently, reducing unnecessary burdens and waste, and speeding the repayment of amounts owed to the Medicare trust fund. The best way to demonstrate the need for the legislation is with a few examples of the current system's unfairness and outright absurdity.
I have a handful of demand letters here sent by CMS to seniors asking to be repaid $1.59, or $2.81, or $4.82, or even $36.75. Those amounts CMS has sought to recoup from seniors is far less than the amount it actually costs CMS to pursue these claims. That's penny wise and a pound foolish.
The SMART Act makes sure CMS is only pursuing Medicare secondary payment claims that will recoup at least the cost that it takes CMS to pursue these claims. That's commonsense reform.
This bill makes financial sense for Medicare, but it will also make a meaningful difference for seniors who are awaiting settlements that are held up by Medicare's process today.
In fact, I heard the story of one gentleman who fell on a retailer's handicapped ramp while using a walker. Now, Mr. Law cut his left hand; he hit his head on the fence alongside the ramp. He and the retailer discussed the medical charges, and they agreed to settle for $2,000.
It took 18 months and eight written exchanges with CMS to resolve this simple MSP claim, which delayed settlement of the claim by the same 18 months. Plus, Mr. Law actually passed away during the extended timeframe.
We can do better for seniors. We can get Medicare the money it's owed a lot faster. This legislation would accomplish that.
These are just a few of the examples of why the SMART Act is needed. The toll this broken system takes on seniors and the burden it imposes on businesses is unacceptable.
I urge my colleagues to vote for H.R. 1845 to support this commonsense reform, including the IVIG program.
And, Madam Speaker, since this may be the last time I'll have a chance to address you in the chair, I too want to echo the sentiments of so many of our colleagues, to congratulate you on such a distinguished career here in the House.
You did well in representing your constituents back home in Missouri. We'll miss you as a colleague, someone who tried hard to work on finding bipartisan, commonsense solutions to the challenges facing our Nation. And, of course, we wish you all the best in your future endeavors.
I reserve the balance of my time.
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