July 9, 2008

Senate Passes Legislation Blocking Cuts in Medicare Reimbursements

Senator Edward M. Kennedy Returns to the Senate Floor to Vote for Passage and Ensure that Medicare Beneficiaries Can Count on Access

Washington, D.C. – The United States Senate today passed legislation blocking Medicare physician payment cuts from going into effect. U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), a consistent advocate for health care reform during his time in the Senate, voted in favor of the legislation. Senator Edward M. Kennedy returned to the Senate for the first time since undergoing surgery for brain cancer to cast a critical vote for the bill.

“It was an electrifying moment in the Senate, with Senator Kennedy’s return to the Senate floor providing a key vote,” said Whitehouse. “I am relieved that Rhode Island doctors will not be faced with a drastic payment cut, and that our state’s Medicare and TRICARE beneficiaries will continue to have access to the physicians they know and trust.”

The cuts, had they been allowed to take effect, would have decreased Medicare’s physician reimbursement rates by 10.6 percent, and could have made it more difficult for doctors to continue seeing many seniors and people with disabilities who are covered by Medicare. Veterans who have health insurance through TRICARE would have also been affected, because TRICARE operates under the same payment guidelines as Medicare.

Senate Democrats attempted to pass the same bill before the Fourth of July holiday, but came one vote shy when many Republicans blocked its passage. Senator Kennedy was not present for that vote.


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