Thank you for contacting me regarding your concerns about decreased Medicare payments to physicians and other providers of Medicare services. I, too, am very concerned about a viable long-term solution to the payment formula and have taken numerous actions in the Senate to achieve this. Fair payments to physicians and other health care providers are critical to preserving access for more than 44 million American senior citizens who depend on the Medicare program for their essential health services.
I understand and share your views that the rising costs attributable to physicians' services must be taken into consideration when determining Medicare reimbursement. As you know, Medicare law specifies a formula for calculating the annual update in payments for physicians' services. Many Members of Congress, myself included, continue to be concerned about the potential impact of payment reductions on patients' access to services. During my time in the Senate, I supported a number of efforts to examine Medicare updates for payments under the physician fee schedule, as well as legislation designed to undo any impending Medicare cuts to physicians, hospitals, nursing homes, home health care agencies, and other health care providers; and I will continue to do so.
While legislative interventions have prevented payment reductions from occurring in the past, Congress has not addressed the underlying issue of the payment formula accurately reflecting practice costs. Because of my continued concerns about ensuring sufficient payments to physicians, last Congress I sent letters to the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in support of a viable solution to the Medicare physician reimbursement formula and asked congressional leadership to bring legislation to the floor to stop impending cuts and find a long-term solution to the issue. I understand these cuts in physician payments for Medicare services are unsustainable, especially given the rising costs of health care services; and I made my concerns known to those who serve on the Senate Finance Committee as they worked to craft physician payment legislation. In addition, I was supportive of legislative efforts to pass a two-year payment fix so that Congress would not have to repeat this process every year and physicians would have stability in payments beyond one calendar year.
Medicare payment policies and potential changes to these policies are of continuing interest to Congress. The Medicare program has been a major focus of deficit reduction legislation since 1980. With certain exceptions, reductions in program spending have been achieved largely through regulating payments to providers, primarily hospitals and physicians.
Although the task confronting Congress in rectifying the Medicare physician payment formula is formidable, it is one to which I remain committed to finding a more lasting solution. Any actions the Administration can take to more accurately account for the realities of spending on practitioner services under this formula, both as to actual spending and target spending, will help facilitate Congress' efforts and enhance access to the high-quality care that Medicare patients need and deserve.
Please be assured that I remain firmly committed to restoring adequate funding to Medicare physician and patient services during this 111th Congress and beyond. As we debate comprehensive health care reform policy, this issue is critical toward ensuring the ability of providers to deliver high-quality care and services and for Medicare beneficiaries to continue to access essential health care services.
Thank you again for sharing your views and concerns with me. I hope you will continue to visit my website at http://lieberman.senate.gov <http://lieberman.senate.gov/> for updated news about my work on behalf of Connecticut and the nation. Please contact me if you have any additional questions or comments about our work in Congress.
Joseph I. Lieberman
UNITED STATES SENATOR
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