U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (WA-09), Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee, today introduced legislation to address national Medicare reimbursement inequities that unfairly shortchange Washington State. The MediFair Act of 2011 would level the playing field for patients by increasing Medicare reimbursement rates in regions with payments lower than the national average and decreasing rates in regions that are inefficient and with payments higher than the national average.
“It is unacceptable that seniors in Washington State and the greater Pacific Northwest have some of the lowest Medicare reimbursement rates in the country. Access to health care should not depend on where patients happen to live. The MediFair Act would ensure that Washington State’s seniors have just as much access to doctors as other seniors around the country and would stop punishing the state’s health care system for providing efficient, quality care.
“Washington State’s Medicare program is one of the most efficient in the country. The current federal program punishes our region’s lack of waste and low utilization of health care through very low reimbursement rates for our health care providers, which hurts patients. We should reward states that practice good governance, not punish them, and the MediFair Act is a step in that direction,” Smith said.
• Smith first introduced the MediFair legislation in 2002, concerned that Washington State’s Medicare reimbursement rates were well below average for other regions of the country.
• In 2007, the most recent year for which data are available, the average Medicare patient in Tacoma received $7,797 for care, well under the national average of $8,682. The same year, Medicare paid $10,430 for patients in Dallas, Texas; $11,303 in Los Angeles, California, and $17,274 in Miami, Florida.
• Medicare spending per enrollee has also been growing at vastly different rates depending on where patients live. Seattle’s reimbursement rate grew 4.9% annually from 2000 to 2007, whereas Las Vegas, a region with reimbursement levels already over the national average, grew faster, at 5.7% annually.
For more examples, Kaiser Health has an informative map to show the regional disparity for Medicare reimbursement per enrollee.
By co-sponsoring the MediFair Act of 2011, Representative Norm Dicks, Representative Rick Larsen, and Representative Jim McDermott join Rep. Smith in fighting for equality for Washington State’s seniors.