March 18, 2014

Lujan: Republicans Abandon Effort to Find Bipartisan Solution to Doctors' Payments Under Medicare

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico’s Third District voted today against a Republican bill to address the Medicare physician payment formula that impacts how much doctors are reimbursed for treating patients under Medicare.  House Republicans amended a bipartisan bill that had wide support, adding in a provision to undermine the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by repealing the shared responsibility provision that allows the quality of insurance to significantly improve while minimizing premium increases.

“There is wide agreement that Congress needs to come together to pass legislation that ensures doctors will not receive deep cuts for treating seniors under Medicare.  Unfortunately, House Republicans have chosen to put politics first rather than work together on a bipartisan solution,” Congressman Luján said.  “Rather than build on bipartisan discussions that have been moving the process forward, House Republicans are again seeking to undermine the ACA.  With the deadline to solve this problem quickly approaching, it is disappointing that House Republicans are putting politics ahead of the needs of America’s seniors.”

Under current law, Medicare physicians are scheduled to receive a 24 percent cut in reimbursements on April 1.  A cut of this magnitude could impact seniors’ ability to see their doctor.  Prior to the move by House Republicans to bring legislation to the floor that also includes the Affordable Care Act, bipartisan efforts were in progress to replace the cuts with a 0.5 percent increase through 2018 and transition to a new reimbursement system.

This attempt to tie a fix for the Medicare physician payment formula to a provision undermining the ACA has led groups such as the American Medical Association and the AARP to express disappointment with the legislation.

“House Republicans were willing to shut down the government over their demands to undermine the Affordable Care Act.  I hope they are not willing to jeopardize seniors’ access to their doctors as well,” Luján added.  “Time is running out to fix this problem.  I hope House Republicans will drop their attempt to tie this important issue to the ACA.”

The shared responsibility provision of the ACA plays a critical role in ensuring that millions of Americans don’t lose their coverage when they get sick and that individuals with pre-existing conditions can get coverage.  Repealing this aspect of the law would result in higher premiums for those who remain insured, fewer premium tax credits for middle-income families, and increased cost-shifting of uncompensated care to health care providers, workers, and businesses.

The shared responsibility provision was originally developed by the Heritage Foundation in 1989 to prevent the problem of “free riders” who don’t get health insurance and face health care costs they cannot afford to pay.  The costs of their uncompensated care are then passed along to all those who have health insurance in the form of higher premiums for consumers and businesses.

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