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