MEDICARE: Senators Support Physician-Contracting Change
Just over half of the Senate voted yesterday in favor of a "non-binding resolution" that would change portions of last year's balanced budget law to make it "easier for doctors and patients to privately contract for Medicare-covered services," CongressDaily reports. In a 51-47 vote, senators approved an amendment sponsored by Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), "expressing the sense of the Senate that Medicare beneficiaries should be able to see the health care provider of their choice, unlimited by 'unreasonable conditions on providers.'" Kyl plans to bring the "actual bill to the floor soon" (4/1). "Today the Senate affirmed a fundamental principle of health care freedom for America's senior citizens: the right to seek treatment from the provider of their choice," Kyl said following the vote.
Last year's budget law stated that any physician who chooses to "privately contract" with a Medicare-eligible senior would be required to forgo all Medicare payments for two years. "It was Medicare or no care. That is just not right," said Kyl, explaining his move to rescind the provision. Kyl said the restriction "established a pernicious principle: that when it comes to health care, senior citizens have only one option -- a government program -- no matter what their need or desire or ability to pay for care outside of Medicare" (Kyl release, 4/1). The American Association of Retired Persons opposes Kyl's bill, believing it would "allow doctors to sidestep current fee limits and increase the potential for fraud and abuse in the program," CongressDaily reports. Martin Corry of AARP said he was not surprised by yesterday's vote: "The bill already had 48 or 49 cosponsors, so it's not surprising it would command a majority" (4/1).