Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Seniors Held Hostage: Day 5

Senator Barrasso was just down on the floor giving his Second Opinion on the health care law’s effects.  His comments focused on Medicare payment rates, which, as USA Today pointed out earlier this week, are resulting in fewer and fewer seniors being able to find a physician that will see them.

The Senator’s comments are particularly timely, given that on Friday, a 21 percent payment cut for Medicare physician reimbursements took effect.  Friday was also the day on which the Senate – acting by unanimous consent – passed a fully paid for, six-month extension of the “doc fix” provisions that would prevent this 21 percent cut from harming seniors.  Yet on Friday evening, Speaker Pelosi issued a press release stating that the House would not consider the Senate’s unanimously passed “doc fix” unless and until Republicans in the Senate agree to increase the deficit by tens of billions of dollars, because Republicans object to passing extensions of unemployment and related benefits without finding offsetting savings within the federal budget.

The result of this stalemate has been predictable.  ABC News reports that “Medicare Havoc is Here” – and could be “here to stay.”  Politico notes that “Congress Battles as Medicare Burns,” discussing how more than 50 million claims will be processed with the 21 percent cut, and how the political uncertainty strains Medicare’s administrative budget.  Remember, this ongoing crisis for America’s seniors would easily be avoided if Speaker Pelosi agreed to schedule an up-or-down vote on the Medicare “doc fix” legislation that passed the Senate unanimously. 

President Obama frequently advocated for an up-or-down vote on his government takeover of health care, which took more than $500 billion from Medicare to fund new health care entitlements for other Americans.  Don’t America’s seniors deserve the same courtesy from Speaker Pelosi when it comes to scheduling an up-or-down vote to prevent a 21 percent cut in Medicare physician payments?