October 19,2000

Roth Statement on Medicare Funding Package

WASHINGTON -- The following is the statement of Senate Finance Committee Chairman William V. Roth, Jr. (R-DE) regarding the agreement reached between House and Senate negotiators over a package of funding to strengthen Medicare, Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP):

"Today we are pleased to unveil legislation to address the funding concerns of many Medicare providers. The bill before us today represents a compromise between the House and the Senate. We have listened to Members on both sides of the aisle.The compromise proposal we are putting forward today is necessary because there have been some unintended consequences from the Balanced Budget Act that the Clinton-Gore Administration and the Congress enacted in 1997. We need to take action to ensure that beneficiaries are protected from unexpected slow-downs in Medicare spending. With this legislation, we can address the needs of hospitals and health care providers, to ensure that millions of Americans receive the best possible care and services.

"Let me be clear that we should be proud of the program improvements and the corresponding savings achieved through the Balanced Budget Act. We have no intention of fundamentally undoing that work. However, if there are problems that should be addressed to make sure we pay adequately to meet the real health care needs of Medicare beneficiaries, then those problems can and will be addressed.

"The payment adjustments included in the House-Senate compromise package will benefit all sectors of the health care market place - including hospitals, physician's offices, nursing facilities, and home health care agencies, among many others. In addition, the package includes other technical adjustments to Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program.

"The provisions included in the package are consistent with a few basic goals I have tried to work toward from the beginning of this process. First, I felt that the overriding purpose of this package should be to address any remaining problems resulting from BBA 97 policies and to further the commitments made in BBA 97 to improve prevention benefits in the Medicare package and to reduce beneficiary copayment liabilities for hospital outpatient services.

"In my view larger Medicare reform, including adding a comprehensive prescription drug coverage, continues to be my primary objective. However, this is neither the moment nor the legislative vehicle by which to achieve that goal.

"Second, we sought to keep payment adjustments focused on areas in which we face demonstrated problems resulting from the Balanced Budget Act. Furthermore, we tried to make short-term adjustments in payment practices without revisiting the underlying policies set forth in the BBA.

"Finally, it was particularly important to me not to let this become a partisan process. These are not partisan issues and I have tried to resist any effort to make them so.

"With this legislation, we have an opportunity to solve the problems that have been interfering with the ability of the provider community to ensure our constituents receive the high quality health care they deserve, without retreating from the important policy reforms enacted in the Balanced Budget Act."