Senate Listens, Passes Medicare Bill, Stops Fee Cuts

Intense lobbying by the Texas Medical Association, the Texas Medical Association Political Action Committee (TEXPAC), and their member physicians paid off this afternoon as Texas Sens. John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison joined 67 of their Senate colleagues in reversing the 10.6-percent cut in Medicare physician payments by a vote of 69-30. The margin is large enough to protect it from President Bush's threatened veto. The vote proved once again that physicians can make a difference when they make their voices heard in Congress.

TMA President Josie Williams, MD, said Texas physicians "want to commend the courage and wisdom" of both Senators Cornyn and Hutchison "who voted for their constituents - our patients - today. Our Texas senators listened to their patients and physicians and reversed the 10.6-percent physician Medicare cuts that went into effect July 1. We cannot thank them enough for standing up for our patients."

The bill the Senate approved, House Resolution 6331, has already passed the House of Representatives by a veto-proof 355-59 margin. It:

  • Stops the 10.6-percent cut, continues current rates for the rest of this year, and provides an additional 1.1-percent increase in 2009;
  • Gives Congress 18 months to devise a long-term replacement for the Sustainable Growth Rate financing formula, as we demand in TMA's Texas Medicare Manifesto ;
  • Extends the Geographical Practice Cost Index, which protects physicians practicing in most of Texas; and
  • Provides parity for Medicare mental health benefits and increases coverage for preventive services.

Senators Cornyn and Hutchison originally voted against the bill when it came up just before Congress recessed for the July 4 holiday. That prompted an angry response from physicians across Texas who flooded their offices with e-mails and telephone calls demanding they change their votes and protect senior citizens' access to care. "TEXPAC harnessed the collective voice and coordinated and executed the teamwork that paid off for today's vote," said Manuel Acosta, MD, chair of the TEXPAC Board of Directors.

"The U.S. Senate got it right today," Dr. Williams said. "Physicians of the Texas Medical Association applaud Congress, especially our two Texas senators, for voting for elderly patients, military families, and persons with disabilities."

Dr. Williams said, "TMA continues to call for a long-term solution to fix Medicare's flawed physician payment formula, and we applaud Senator Cornyn and Hutchison for calling on all the members of the Senate to put aside their partisan infighting and devise a permanent long-term solution. With the additional time now afforded Congress, there is no excuse for not working on a bipartisan solution to protect Medicare beneficiaries and their physicians."

Last Updated On

August 29, 2010

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