U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) today introduced legislation to address national Medicare reimbursement disparities that hurt Washington state.  The legislation, which Murray and Smith first introduced in 2002, raises Washington state’s Medicare reimbursement rates to the national average and ensures that all states receive at least the national average of per-patient spending.  The MediFair Act ensures that Washington state’s seniors are on par with seniors around the country and stops 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 federal program punishes our lack of waste and low utilization through very low reimbursement rates for our seniors and health care system.  We should reward good government, not punish it, and the MediFair Act is a good step in that direction,” Smith said.

"Washington state seniors have spent their lives working hard, raising their families, and paying into the Medicare system. But when they retire, they find that their access to health care depends upon where they happen to live," Senator Murray said. "The MediFair Act is a starting point for eliminating the regional inequities in Medicare. Our bill ensures that seniors are not penalized when they choose to retire and that doctors aren't forced to choose between staying in business or taking Medicare patients."

The MediFair Act will ensure Washington’s seniors and health care system get fair treatment from the federal Medicare program and reward efficiency instead of punishing it.   The bill increases reimbursement rates for Washington state to the national average and directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to require other states be more efficient.

The federal Medicare and Medicare Advantage systems cover health care for senior citizens by reimbursing doctors, hospitals, home health care, nursing homes and HMOs.  Washington state worked hard to create an efficient Medicare system.  Instead of rewarding Washington state’s responsible administration of their program, the federal government’s payment formula repays our state with one of the lowest reimbursement rates in the country. 

In 2003, for example, per capita spending under traditional Medicare was $5,661 for beneficiaries in Seattle, $9,752 for those in Los Angeles, and $11,340 for those in Miami. Continuing cuts to the Medicare program hit our state particularly hard and cause Medicare providers and insurance companies to seriously consider not participating in the Washington state Medicare program.  We need to protect choice for our seniors and ensure they can find a Medicare provider when they seek medical care.

Smith and Murray introduced the MediFair Act in their respective chambers of Congress on Thursday.  U.S. Reps. Brian Baird (D-Wash.), Norm Dicks (D-Wash.),  Jay Inslee (D-Wash.), Rick Larsen (D-Wash.) and Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) cosponsored the bill. The House and the Senate must approve their versions of the legislation before the President can sign it into law.  Smith and Murray introduced similar legislation in 2005.