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Letter to the Senate urging an override of the President's veto of the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act (H.R. 6331)

July 16, 2008

Dear Senator:


On behalf of the 3.2 million members of the National Education Association (NEA), we urge you to vote to override the President's veto of the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act (H.R. 6331). This bill will result in much improved access to affordable, high quality medical care and pharmaceutical services in rural and urban areas. Votes associated with this issue may be included in the NEA Legislative Report Card for the 110th Congress.

We were pleased that both the House and Senate passed this important legislation, which would:

  • Delay for 18 months a 10.6 percent cut in Medicare physician fees scheduled to take effect on July 1 and increase payments by 1.1 percent. Many physicians already turn away Medicare patients because reimbursement rates for some services are so low they do not cover the cost of providing them. In fact, nearly half the medical groups that participate in Medicare are accepting fewer Medicare patients or have stopped accepting them altogether, according to a recent survey conducted by the Medical Group Management Association. Reducing reimbursements even further will increase the number of physicians refusing to treat Medicare patients. In addition, physicians are considering steps such as laying off staff or postponing purchases of needed technology that could compromise the quality of care.
  • Protect seniors and disabled citizens from marketing fraud and abuse by salespeople working for private Medicare plans. Specifically, it would ban abusive marketing and sales practices in Medicare Advantage and Part D prescription drug programs.

  • Expand rural health care programs. In so doing, the bill will improve access to affordable, high quality medical care in underserved areas.

  • Reduce copayments for mental health services from 50 percent to 20 percent. Too many Medicare beneficiaries are unable to afford the higher copayments associated with behavioral health treatment for illnesses such as depression and anxiety. NEA recommends reducing the copayments for behavioral health treatment so they are on par with medical services.

  • Cut payments to private Medicare Advantage benefit plans, which currently receive payment at a rate 13 percent higher than traditional fee-for-service providers. In doing, so, the bill alleviates the cost of this special deal to taxpayers and beneficiaries.

We are very disappointed that the President has vetoed this bill. We urge Congress to stand by this important legislation by overriding the President's veto.

Sincerely,

Diane Shust, Director of Government Relations

Randall Moody, Manager of Federal Advocacy