December 09,2010

Press Contact:

Scott Mulhauser/Erin Shields (Baucus)

Baucus Applauds House Passage of Bill to Ensure Seniors, Military Families Continued Access to High-Quality Doctors

Senate Leaders’ Bill Would Ensure Doctors Can Continue Seeing Medicare, Tricare Patients

Washington, DCSenate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) today applauded House passage of legislation extending through 2011 a fix to the Medicare physician payment formula to ensure seniors and military families can be confident they will be able to continue seeing their doctors.  The legislation would ensure Medicare and Tricare, the health care program for active-duty service members, National Guard and Reserve members, retirees and their families, will continue to pay physicians who participate in those programs at current levels.  Baucus, along with Senate Majority Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Finance Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), introduced the bill earlier this week and worked to pass it through the Senate yesterday.

“America’s seniors and military families deserve the highest-quality health care and to be able to see the doctors they know and trust,” Baucus said.  “This legislation ensures seniors and military families can continue to have access to their doctors, treatments and medicines.  Once this bill is signed into law, seniors and military families in Montana and across the country will have the peace of mind of knowing they can continue to see their doctors.”

The bill, the Medicare and Medicaid Extenders Act of 2010, would avoid a 25-percent cut to Medicare physician payments under the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula that would otherwise go into effect on January 1, 2011.  The proposal also includes extensions of other expiring health care provisions, including protections for rural hospitals and doctors, Transitional Medical Assistance and the Special Diabetes Program.  The legislation would be paid for by modifying the policy regarding overpayments of the health care affordability tax credit.  This policy does not change the tax credits for which people are eligible based on their income.  Instead, the proposal would change the way people pay back overpayments when they have received more credit than they are eligible for because, for example, they earned more money than expected in a given year.   

Under current law there is a flat cap of $250 for individuals and $400 for families on the amount of the health care affordability tax credit people are required to pay back when they received an overpayment.  This payback cap is the same for people earning 160 percent of the federal poverty level and 360 percent of the federal poverty level.  Under this proposal for correcting overpayments, the cap on the payback amount would be on a sliding scale based on the income of the recipient of the tax credit, making the policy fairer to both recipients and all taxpayers. 

The Finance Committee has jurisdiction over the Medicare program and the physician payment formula, which also sets payment levels for the Tricare program.  A summary and legislative text of the Medicare and Medicaid Extenders Act of 2010 can be found on the Finance Committee website  The legislation, which passed the House by a vote of 409 to two, now goes to the President for his signature.