Minnesota lawmakers seek Medicare reimbursement changes

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Four Minnesota lawmakers have signed on to a letter encouraging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders to hold on to Medicare reimbursement-rate rule changes in the House health-care bill, noting their concerns that the Senate’s emerging package simply doesn’t go far enough.

“It will be difficult for us to support final health care reform legislation that fails to significantly reform our Medicare reimbursement system and weakens efforts to address geographic disparities as passed by the U.S. House,” wrote Reps. Betty McCollum, Keith Ellison, Jim Oberstar, Tim Walz and 30 other Democrats. “We urge you to ensure that the House provisions are included in the final health care reform bill.”

McCollum, Ellison, Oberstar and Walz all voted for the House health-care reform bill earlier this year.

Medicare reimbursement rates have been a long-time issue for Minnesota lawmakers — no surprise given medical providers in the state receive far less in Medicare reimbursements per procedure than their counterparts in much of the nation. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken signed on to a letter last week that urged Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to include quality of care as a reimbursement condition. They also called for greater incentives for medical providers who care for Medicare patients as a short-term solution, before long-term cost-restructuring provisions in the Senate bill kick in.

“The combination of an antiquated payment formula that tends to penalize rural providers and greater medical efficiency in our states has forced many physicians to stop accepting Medicare patients or limit the number of Medicare patients they serve,” Klobuchar, Franken and others wrote. “Increasing the number of Medicare patients under a buy-in proposal without fixing the Medicare reimbursement rate will further exacerbate this access problem. To make a Medicare buy-in program successful, it is critical that we find ways to incentivize providers to see more Medicare patients.”

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