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June 12, 2008

Inhofe Says Democrats Playing Partisan Politics on Important Medicare Bill

Calls on Colleagues to End Political Squabble Over Medicare and Get Bill Passed Now

WASHINGTON, DC - U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) today expressed disappointment with the Senate's failure to pass important Medicare legislation.  Effective July 1, Medicare payments to physicians will be cut by 10.6% based on the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate formula.  Since 2002, Congress has acted every year to prevent these cuts and ensure that Medicare beneficiaries continue to receive covered medical care.  Senator Inhofe believes it is crucial that Congress again act quickly to ensure Medicare beneficiaries have access to covered services. Because the Democratic Medicare bill would impose new regulations and cut $14 billion to the Medicare Advantage Program, Senator Inhofe voted against the motion to proceed to S. 3101, which failed 54-39. Rather, Senator Inhofe supports the Republican alternative, S. 3118, because it goes further to ensure that Medicare beneficiaries continue to have access to quality care, especially those in rural areas.
 
"With just days to go until the July 1st deadline, it makes absolutely no sense for the Democratic majority to bring forth legislation that is certain to be vetoed by the President," Senator Inhofe said. "While many in Washington seem more interested in election year politics, it is simply irresponsible to delay action on this important issue because of political squabbling. Without quick Congressional action, it's the American people who will pay the price.
 
"The two competing bills provide a clear contrast between Democratic and Republican approaches to Medicare. The Democratic bill includes provisions imposing new regulations and cutting $14 billion to the Medicare Advantage Program over the next ten years, hitting beneficiaries in rural areas the hardest and cutting payments for oxygen and oxygen equipment.  The Republican alternative, on the other hand, addresses critical Medicare reimbursement rates, preserves Medicare Advantage coverage, continues and expands rural health programs, and maintains oxygen benefits, among other critical provisions ensuring Medicare beneficiaries continue to receive the benefits and care they need.
 
"Importantly, the Republican alternative ensures that we maintain necessary rural health coverage. As a staunch advocate of rural health, I am proud that the Republican alternative includes legislation I cosponsored.  The bill includes provisions for ambulance payments in rural areas supported by local ambulance service providers in Oklahoma, additional payments for rural home health services, and support for our rural hospitals such as clinical diagnostic lab services and skilled nursing care at our critical access hospitals.
 
"The good news is that both bills do contain important provisions to Oklahoma. Once Congress gets its act together and moves to pass legislation, I am hopeful that the the final bill will include provisions that provide funding for the Special Diabetes Programs requested by the Oklahoma Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.  It should also continue outpatient physical therapy funding under Medicare, expand the Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility (FLEX) grant program, which provides support for Critical Access Hospitals that care predominately for rural areas, and include legislation which I cosponsored and is supported by the Oklahoma Society of Anesthesiologists providing parity for anesthesiologists who train future doctors in our state's teaching hospitals.  Finally, it should also include a MedPAC study on payment methodology for hospice care to evaluate if there is a problem with payments and whether cap amount revisions are needed."   

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