Republicans are just misunderstood, I’m told. Particularly Senate Republicans, who failed to pass a bill that would stop a 10.6 percent Medicare physician fee cut that went into effect last week.
A barrage of TV and radio ads over the holiday weekend — not to mention mass e-mailings — by groups such as the American Medical Association and the AARP are putting even more pressure on Congress to fix the problem before more doctors bow out of the government-funded program and threaten access to care for the nation’s 44 million Medicare beneficiaries.
When I wrote about this issue last week, at least one doctor asked me to find out why Sen. Sam Brownback was the only Kansas senator to vote AGAINST passing a bill that would halt the cuts. The bill failed by one vote.
So I asked Brownback’s office for an explanation. It’s not that Brownback supports the fee cuts, his press secretary Becky Ogilvie assured me. The bill that failed (although it overwhelmingly passed the House) would pay for a physician fee increase by slashing federal payments for Medicare Advantage plans, something President Bush has vowed to veto.
Instead, Brownback is more interested in a compromise bill — and one does exist — which he hopes is brought out this week as the Senate works to resolve this problem, Ogilvie said. Despite the Republican backlash over this issue, the problem really lies with the Democrats, she said. Here is more of her e-mail response to me:
“Senator Brownback strongly supports ensuring that doctors receive fair payments for treating patients in Medicare, and he has supported a bipartisan compromise that protects both doctors in Medicare and seniors in our state. Unfortunately, for political reasons, Democrats refused to allow that bill to come to a vote. Democrats also objected to both a long-term 18 month extension and a short-term 30 day extension of current law that was needed to give the Senate time to work out an agreement. Fortunately, the Administration has confirmed that they are taking steps to minimize the impact of any payment reductions past the July 1st deadline so that Congress can have another opportunity to address this situation. Senator Brownback’s first priority remains passing an agreement that the President can sign so that doctors and the seniors they serve will not be impacted by any payment cuts.”
I wonder why none of the articles mentioned that?