Press Release             

Contact: Paul Precht
Director for Policy and Communications

June 27, 2008

Medicare Rights Center Assails 39 Senators Who Opposed the Medicare Bill

Opposing the Bill Shows a "Callous Disregard" for People with Medicare

New York, NY — Medicare Rights Center President Robert M. Hayes today expressed frustration and disappointment that 39 Republican senators continue to block passage of bipartisan legislation that would stabilize payments and access to doctors serving people with Medicare and improve Medicare benefits, particularly for those living on low incomes.

Last night, the Senate fell two votes short of the 60 votes needed to bring the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act to the Senate floor for an up-or-down vote. Earlier in the week, the House of Representatives passed the same bill with a vote of 355 to 59, a margin well in excess of the two-thirds necessary to override a threatened veto by President Bush.

The Senate's failure to pass this legislation means a 10.6 percent pay cut for doctors will go into effect July 1. In addition, people with Medicare recovering from a stroke or other injury will face an arbitrary cap on the rehabilitation therapy they can receive, since a policy allowing exceptions to the cap also expires July 1. Over 1.5 million older adults and people with disabilities living on less than $1,171 per month ($1,576 for a couple) now face being dropped from programs that help pay their Part B premiums and prescription drug costs.

"The 39 Republican senators who lined up behind President Bush to oppose this sensible and humane bill are agents of harm to older Americans," Mr. Hayes said. "People with Medicare, as well as the doctors who care for them, should know that and tell them that as they go home for their July 4th recess. The vote shows a callous disregard for the older adults and people with disabilities in their states and a craven submission to the insurance industry."

President Bush threatened to veto the legislation, objecting to the Medicare benefit improvements in the bill, the payment reductions for insurance companies offering Medicare private health plans and the consumer protections for enrollees in these plans. The bill would have improved coverage of mental health and preventative services under Medicare and removed bureaucratic obstacles that prevent low-income people with Medicare from receiving assistance with premiums and copayments for medical care and prescription drugs.

Medicare Rights Center is a national, not-for-profit consumer service organization that works to ensure access to affordable health care for older adults and people with disabilities through counseling and advocacy, educational programs and public policy initiatives.

Medicare Rights Center (MRC) is the largest independent source of health care information and assistance in the United States for people with Medicare. Founded in 1989, MRC helps older adults and people with disabilities get good, affordable health care.