July 27,2004

Grassley on Proposed Rules Increasing Preventive Benefits for Seniors, Doctor Payments


To: Reporters and Editors
Fr: Jill Gerber for Chairman Grassley, 202/224-6522
Re: Proposed Medicare regulations on doctors, preventive benefits
Da: Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Today, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued proposed regulationsto implement key elements of last year’s historic Medicare Modernization Act. The proposed regulations will implement payment rate changes to physicians for 2005, assistance to ruralphysicians, Medicare payments for Part B drugs and the administration of drugs, along with severalrelated Part B issues. Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Committee on Finance and a chiefarchitect of the Medicare law, made the following comment on the proposed regulations.

“The physician changes are important. Along with receiving a payment increase for alldoctors, Iowa doctors can look forward to significant additional help. Payment rate increases willmean Medicare values their work the same as work done by doctors in New York. The Medicare lawalso provides an incentive for physicians to practice in rural areas and will help to maintain accessto quality care in Iowa.

“Older Americans can look forward to new screening benefits, such as an initial physical fornew beneficiaries, screening tests for early detections of cardiovascular disease, tests for those athigh risk for diabetes, and coordinated disease management for those with chronic illnesses. Thesenew benefits will lead to earlier detection of serious diseases and longer, healthier lives for allseniors.

“This proposed regulation also changes the payment system for Medicare-covered drugs.Neither the Medicare program nor beneficiaries can afford to overpay for drugs. That’s why priceswill now be set at the market rate, not an inflated rate. In the current system, beneficiaries sometimespaid more in copayments than the physician or supplier paid to acquire the drug. The new paymentsystem will significantly lower beneficiaries’ out-of-pocket expenses for much-needed drugs. Thisreform will save Medicare billions of dollars, so older Americans can enjoy their health benefits foryears to come. In addition to other payment fixes, physicians will see an average 110 percentincrease in reimbursements for drug administration services.

“I appreciate CMS’ strong efforts to issue these proposed regulations in just under eightmonths after President Bush signed the Medicare bill into law. These proposed rules are designedto solicit input and comment, and I urge everybody interested to offer their views.

“The Medicare Modernization Act was a bipartisan effort, and I look forward to working inthat spirit with CMS and all stakeholders to ensure the program’s successful implementation for ournation’s Medicare beneficiaries.”