Ninth District Congressman Adam Smith rallied his colleagues today to send a letter to Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt to request that Medicare+Choice funding inequities and shortfalls are resolved this year.

“As Congress prepares to enter final negotiations on our budget for next year, I felt it was important to send a message to our Leadership on this issue,” Smith explained. “Thousands of seniors in my district alone are feeling the pain of Medicare+Choice providers leaving the market or scaling back their benefits due to funding inequities. It isn’t fair to Washington state seniors, and it’s critical that we solve this problem as soon as possible.”

Joining Smith in his letter were: Representatives Brian Baird (WA), Earl Blumenauer (OR), Norm Dicks (WA), Cal Dooley (CA), Darlene Hooley (OR), Steny Hoyer (MD), Jay Inslee (WA), Bill Luther (MN), David Minge (MN), and Martin Olav Sabo (MN).

Smith said that while he is optimistic some Medicare provisions will be included in the budget, it is still unclear what those provisions will be. 

“I am hopeful that we can fix the inequity problem. I’ve written legislation to help fix the inequities built into the system that guarantee states like Washington receive about half as much money per Medicare+Choice patient as states like Florida,” said Smith. “This needs to be a top priority of Congress this year so that seniors can continue to have the option of enrolling in Medicare+Choice, no matter where they live.”

Smith’s letter follows:

September 18, 2000

Minority Leader Richard Gephardt
U.S. Capitol Building
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Leader Gephardt,

As we head into the final weeks of the 106th Congress, we wanted to bring your attention to an issue that must be addressed before adjournment. Over the last year, it has become clear to us and our constituents that Congress needs to ensure Medicare patients continue to have access to choices in their health care plan.

Due to the payment inequities and administrative burdens in the Medicare+Choice program, thousands of our constituents have lost their HMO coverage during the past two years, and therefore, their health care options. The Medicare+Choice program was designed to give beneficiaries an affordable choice in their health care delivery. They also enjoy the additional benefits that the Medicare+Choice plans have often been able to provide, due to the competition and efficiencies that HMOs bring to the senior health care market.

Unfortunately, many Medicare+Choice plans have withdrawn from various counties and/or scaled back their benefit offerings. Understandably, many of our constituents are upset that they have lost the choices and benefits that they had become accustomed to in the Medicare+Choice program.

We all agree that Medicare beneficiaries deserve stable and universal health care. That is why it is critical for Congress to stabilize the Medicare+Choice program this fall so that all beneficiaries have the choice of enrolling in Medicare+Choice, not just a few that happen to live in the right geographical region.

By streamlining several administrative processes and shoring up reimbursement rates for Medicare+Choice, we will ensure that our constituents have access to stable and affordable health care options, regardless of where they live.

We look forward to working with you this fall.