Congress must override Medicare veto swiftly
July 15, 2008
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Gene Green (D-Houston) called for a swift congressional override of President Bush’s veto of a Medicare bill that would block physician pay cuts today.
“We need to make sure this bill becomes law as soon as possible so that doctors and patients aren’t affected,” Green said. “If there is any delay we’ll start seeing problems as of tomorrow.”
The Medicare program reimburses physicians who treat seniors using a complex formula based on a number of factors. Green said the formula reduces payments to physicians when the economy goes down – a time when doctors are least able to absorb the extra costs. He said these payment reductions have caused many physicians to hold off on accepting new Medicare patients, withdraw from the program, or retire from medicine altogether. Green said he has consistently advocated a fix for the reimbursement rate in the physician payment program
Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008 (H.R. 6331) will prevent a payment cut to physicians under Medicare for FY08 and ensures that physicians will receive payment increases of 1.1 percent for FY09; as opposed to the 10.6 percent cut they were scheduled to receive under the old formula. The Senate passed H.R. 6331 on July 9, 2008.
The physician pay cut was scheduled cut to go into effect July 1, 2008, but the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) agreed to delay reimbursement for claims submitted after July 1, 2008 until July 15, 2008, before they implemented the scheduled physician payment cut rates to reimbursements to allow Congress time to act on the impending cut.
Today, CMS must begin releasing payments to physicians with the 10.6 percent rate cut in effect because the President has not signed H.R. 6331 into law or vetoed the bill.
Green said the Administration had indicated they intend to veto the bill. “I hope they will do so quickly so that Congress, which passed the bill with a veto proof margin, can override the veto.”