Today Congressman Adam Smith will vote to restore cuts imposed on Medicare as part of the 1997 Balanced Budget Act.
The Balanced Budget Act called for a reduction in Medicare spending of $116 billion over five years, but cuts have actually been closer to $200 million already, show estimates. These reductions are primarily in Medicare reimbursement rates – the amount hospitals and health care providers are reimbursed by the federal government for treating Medicare patients. As a result, many health care organizations are becoming unwilling or unable to provide care to Medicare patients.
Smith has worked extensively on this issue throughout the year. In September, he encouraged nearly thirty of his colleagues to join him in a letter to Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert to prioritize a Medicare “fix” package. “I am very pleased by the House Leadership’s response to our concerns,” Smith said.
Smith became involved in the issue after talking to seniors whose health care services are beginning to be affected by the cuts and health care providers who warned that access would diminish. “I am very concerned that seniors who rely on Medicare for their health care coverage are losing access to vital services,” said Smith. “This legislation will help ensure that seniors are getting the health care they need.”
What’s more, the reimbursement rate cuts disproportionately affect Washington state. “Washington was one of the most efficient states with regards to waste in the Medicare program,” Smith explained. “Unfortunately, the cuts affected each state equally. Many states had a lot of waste to cut, but Washington didn’t – therefore our cuts are really affecting vital services.”
The House bill includes:
-a phase in for the new payment adjustment caps for Medicare+Choice
-delay in the 15% cut to home health
-delay in the scheduled cut in payments for hospitals that treat low income patients
-increase inflation adjustments and payments for high cost patients in skilled nursing facilities
-help to certain rural providers
-changes in the $1500 cap for rehabilitation therapy to better provide for the highest cost patients
-changes to the Direct Graduate Medical Education payments
-increase payments for outpatient care
-reduce scheduled cut to indirect medical education
October 28, 1999
Ninth District Congressman cited fiscal discipline and the need to make tough choices in maintaining a balanced budget as the reason for his vote to trim all discretionary spending by 1 percent.
“Fiscal responsibility is not easy,” explained Smith. “This one percent reduction affects programs that are very popular and necessary. However, balancing the budget and being fiscally disciplined is incredibly important to our economic health and people’s trust in government. Congress has to be willing to make the tough choices necessary to be fiscally disciplined.”
Although President Clinton has publicly opposed the 1 percent reduction and all but four House Democrats voted against it, Smith said this was a time for principle to rise above party. “I represent the people of the Ninth District, not the Democratic party,” he said. “Most families and businesses could trim their budgets by one percent for a year, so I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask the federal government to do the same.”
Smith said in a perfect world, an across-the-board cut at the end of the budget process wouldn’t be necessary. “The House leadership has tried to stick to a flawed budget blueprint that relies on budget gimmicks to give the appearance of fiscal restraint,” Smith said. “I would much rather Congress enact a budget that is honest and evaluates programs on their own merit, so that we eliminate wasteful or unnecessary spending and we don’t have to do an across-the-board cut. Unfortunately, that option wasn’t on the table, so I chose to take a small step forward and support the one percent cut to be more fiscally responsible.”
The budget process is far from over. Several more appropriations bills must be enacted to keep the government running before Congress can adjourn for the year. “The next few weeks are critical,” Smith said. “We’ve got to keep our eye on the ball and remind ourselves how important fiscal restraint is. For the first time in a generation, we had a real, non-Social Security surplus of $1 billion in 1999. If we can maintain fiscal discipline and keep the economy strong, we will have another surplus next year and we can start reducing the federal debt.”
October 20, 1999
Adam Smith (D-WA) and Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) are seeking to speed up the review process of the sale of U.S. high-powered computers.
According to current law, a Congressional review of high-powered computer exports must wait six month. In a letter today to Floyd Spence (R-SC), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Kennedy and Smith have asked for a 30-day review to streamline the process and maintain U.S. technological leadership and competitiveness in the industry.
“The current six-month lag in our policy is obsolete and puts our computer industry at a clear disadvantage,” said Kennedy. “We must realize that this industry rolls out a new generation personal computer every three months. To delay product delivery may result in irrecoverable market losses for U.S. companies.”
On June 22, 79 Members of Congress sent a letter to President Clinton urging him to relax export controls. Recognizing the need to calibrate the policy, the President proposed a revision to U.S. export controls on computers on July 1, 1999.
The President submitted a report to Congress that justifies and spells out the proposed revisions on July 23. Any adjustment of the licensing threshold must wait 180 days before taking effect.
“Changing the review period from six months to one month is not a question of national security; rather, it is about eliminating unnecessary red tape. Right now, Congress spends thirty days to review foreign sales of an F-16 fighter plane, and forty-five days to review an entire military installation closure,” explained Smith. “I think we can determine whether or not we can export a Macintosh PC in thirty days.”
Kennedy and Smith pointed out that as more Members of Congress become aware of the 180 day delays in the export adjustment policy, they will want to see the process streamlined.
Along with Kennedy and Smith, ten of the Democratic colleagues on the House Armed Services Committee signed the leter to Spence and Congressman Ike Skelton (D-MO), the Ranking Member of the Committee: Reps. Mike Thompson (D-CA), John Larson (D-CT), Jim Maloney (D-CT), Ellen Tauscher (D-CA), Martin Meehan (D-MA), Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), Baron Hill (D-IN), Cynthia McKinney (D-GA), Robert Andrews (D-NJ), and Robert Brady (D-PA).
September 14, 1999
Ninth District Congressman Adam Smith will vote for the comprehensive Shays-Meehan campaign finance reform legislation tonight on the House floor. Smith, a co-sponsor of the legislation, will also oppose several amendments designed to weaken or erode support for the bill.
“The Shays-Meehan reform bill will eliminate the most egregious aspect of campaign financing – soft money,” Smith explained. “Soft money is the unregulated money that donors give to political parties who then use it on behalf of candidates running for office. Simply put, it’s a way for big money to get around the current contribution limits.”
In addition to eliminating federal soft money, Shays-Meehan also regulates issue advocacy, confirms the right of labor union members to disallow political use of their dues and requires electronic filing to the Federal Election Commission.
Smith will vote against two amendments which gives wealthy contributors more influence in the political process. The amendments, both sponsored by Representative Ed Whitfield (R-Kentucky), would increase the individual campaign contribution limit from $1,000 to $3,000 and increase the aggregate annual individual contribution level from $30,000 to $75,000.
“I believe the current campaign contribution limits of $1,000 per person and an aggregate level of $30,000 per person are appropriate,” said Smith. “Tripling those limits is a step in the wrong direction.”
The votes are expected late this evening.