Medicare Improvement Passed In House By Wide Margin
A bipartisan bill outlining improvements in the Medicare program passed the House last week by a whopping 355- 59 vote.
Congressmember Joseph Crowley hailed the measure's passage saying, "Seniors across Queens and The Bronx can breathe a sigh of relief- the Democratic-led Congress has once again worked successfully to protect their needs for both affordable care and the doctor of their choice."
Crowley said that as a member of the powerful Ways & Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over Medicare legislation, he was "proud to be a part of the team that fought for this passage".
The Queens/Bronx lawmaker added: "Our seniors must have access to the healthcare services, prescriptions and doctors they need to stay alive and healthy. It is my hope that President [George W.] Bush will agree by signing this bill into law."
Under the terms of the bill, Crowley said, the pending 10 percent payment reduction for doctors who serve in the Medicare program would be prevented. The bill also enhances Medicare preventive and mental health benefits, improves and extends programs for low-income senior beneficiaries and extends expiring provisions covering rural and other providers.
Crowley noted that the bill would be completely paid for by reforms to the Medicare Advantage programs, "which will bring the program back in line with traditional Medicare benefits".
The Advantage programs are operated by private insurance companies and offer the same basic Medicare coverage plus added benefits, but require an additional payment by Medicare members who opt to go into the private plan.
Crowley explained that the bill extends and improves assistance programs for low-income seniors whose incomes are below $14,040. This includes the "Qualified Individual" program, which pays Part B (doctor visits) premiums for low income beneficiaries with incomes of $12,480 to $14,040 a year. Another benefit for low-income persons increases the amount of assets they can have and still qualify for financial help to cover their Medicare costs.
The bill also adds new preventive care benefits for all members and reduces outof pocket costs for mental health care.
Eliminating the pending 10 percent cut in Medicare payments to physicians accepting Medicare patients will apply for the remainder of 2008. For 2009, these physicians would receive a 1.1 percent increase in Medicare physician payments.