October 19,1999

Roth Urges Administration to Make Further Adjustments to the Medicare+Choice Program

WASHINGTON -- Senate Finance Committee Chairman William V. Roth, Jr. (R-DE) today released the following statement on the Administration's announcement to implement Chairman Roth's recommended adjustments to the unintended consequences of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997.

The Balanced Budget Act of 1999, with respect to the Medicare program, enacted a significant set of reforms in payments to providers and private health plans. These changes had the salutary effect of temporarily stabilizing the growth rates in Medicare spending and extending the solvency of the Part A Hospital Insurance Trust Fund. As a result of this major legislation, there have been some unintended consequences that require certain provider and health plan payment adjustments. These adjustments are critical in order to protect beneficiaries' access to quality health care services and plans.

On September 24, 1999 Chairman Roth sent a letter to President Clinton requesting the Administration's help in relieving some of the unintended consequences of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997. As outlined in the letter, there are several areas of legitimate concern that could be clearly addressed by the Executive Branch administratively, thereby freeing the Congress to concentrate on those matters which can only be addressed legislatively. The letter also included a detailed list of the administrative changes for the Administration to consider.

On October 14, following a meeting at the White House with President Clinton, Chairman Roth and Senator Moynihan sent a second letter to the President urging the Administration to make administrative changes to the Medicare program.

"I am pleased the Administration has taken a number of our ideas and agreed to make administrative changes to the Medicare program," Roth stated. "These administrative changes will complement the legislative changes that Senator Moynihan and I have proposed in the Balanced Budget Adjustment Act of 1999, scheduled for mark up by the Committee this week. However, I am disappointed that President Clinton has declined to take steps clearly within the Administration's authority to help stabilize the Medicare + Choice (M+C) risk adjustment policy. The M+C program has experienced a number of plan withdrawals and a reduction in beneficiary services due in part to the plans' concerns about payment levels--which are determined by the risk adjustments policy. The Administration is proceeding on its previously announced course of action that will take approximately $11 billion out of the Medicare + Choice program. I hope President Clinton will reconsider, as the Administration and Congress continues to address these complex issues."