Green Amendment included in Medicare Prescription Drug and Modernization Act
June 20, 2003
Washington, DC - Last evening, the Energy and Commerce committee adopted an amendment offered by Congressman Gene Green (D-TX) and Congressman Ernie Fletcher (R-KY), requiring Medicare to cover screening for Medicare beneficiaries at risk for diabetes.
I am pleased that the Chairman agreed to adopt this common sense amendment, said Green. Medicare currently spends 24 percent of its budget on people with diabetes. Funding diabetes screening under Medicare will catch the disease early, when treatment is less costly.
Of the seven million Medicare beneficiaries with diabetes, one third do not know they have the disease, and won't learn until they develop one of its deadly complications: kidney failure, blindness, cardiovascular disease, and lower limb amputation. By screening and diagnosing these individuals early on, many of these complications can be averted. This amendment will improve the quality of life for countless individuals with diabetes and save the Medicare program money by preventing costly hospitalizations.
And the Committee also adopted legislation that would provide additional funding to the states for their Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The Balanced Budget Act of 1997 required states with unspent federal funding allocations to return those amounts back to the U.S. Treasury. As a result of this requirement, Texas was forced to return $285 million at the end of FY 2002.
The legislation passed by the committee -- H.R. 531 -- would restore $1.2 billion in funding to the states, including $144 million for Texas. The bill would also extend the availability of funds in future years, preventing an additional $2.2 billion from being returned by the states to the federal treasury later this year.
Due to current budget pressures, Texas was forced to make a number of changes to eligibility, services, and reimbursements under the CHIP program. These cuts could effectively force 170,000 kids to lose their coverage. H.R. 531 would provide additional funding to help prevent some of these cuts.
Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorns decision not to certify the budget means that the Texas Legislature has some work to do. Passage of H.R. 531 would pump additional funds into Texas to help them deal with this budget crisis, said Green.
Approximately 8.5 million American children are uninsured, including 1.3 million children in Texas. The CHIP program currently serves 508,000 Texas Children, with 90,000 children in Harris County. Returning funds to the states will help the Texas legislature avoid cuts to this critical program, and keep more children insured.