The three Iowa Democrats who serve in congress says there’s been a “major breakthrough” on health care reform that will ensure Iowa doctors, hospitals and other health care providers are more fairly paid when they treat Medicare patients.
“We are very confident that this will finally address geographic disparity in Medicare reimbursements that have long penalized Iowa physicians and hospitals,” Congressman Bruce Braley says, “and that there should be an increase in Medicare reimbursements for Iowa providers under this new system.”
Iowans in congress have long sought to change the payment system for Medicare, the government-run health care system for the nation’s seniors. Under current rules, fees are set for certain services, but the fees are much lower for doctors and hospitals in rural areas. Under the deal, a two-year study would be conducted to devise a new payment system for Medicare.
“That will be to develop a Medicare payment system that rewards value and quality,” Braley says. “And that study is required to be completed by the Institute of Medicine by April of 2011.”
According to Braley, the new Medicare payment system would be implemented by May 31st, 2012. It could only be stopped if both the House and Senate passed resolutions of disapproval and the president agreed. “And that approval mechanism is key because of the political cards that are often stacked against rural states like those in Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Utah, Washington and Oregon,” Braley says. “And that joint resolution of disapproval, even if it were to be passed in both the House and the Senate, would still be subject to a presidential veto.”
Braley, a Democrat from Waterloo, along with Iowa’s other two Democratic congressmen — Leonard Boswell of Des Moines and Dave Loebsack of Mount Vernon — pressed to put these Medicare payment changes in the health care reform plan that’s moving through congress. Democratic leaders in congress suggest by agreeing to make changes in the Medicare payment system in rural areas of the country, they’ve picked up enough support among rural Democrats to pass a health care reform plan that includes the so-called “public option.” Braley served on the House Energy and Commerce Committee which earlier this summer endorsed a health care reform plan that included a government-run health care plan to compete with private sector insurance.
“My position is I will support the most robust public option that makes the best sense for the people that I represent in Iowa,” Braley says. “But I am confident that the agreement that we’ve reach that is finalized in the bill should give great assurance to Iowa providers and patients that Medicare is going to be a much more attractive reimbursement for them going forward once these changes are implemented.”
Braley, Boswell and Loebsack have argued Iowa hospitals and doctors are near a “breaking point” because they’re providing care to elderly patients but being paid far less than hospitals and doctors in urban areas providing the same level of care.