Bipartisan Medicare plan a win

Published 10:21 am Friday, March 27, 2015

Mankato Free Press

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency

The U.S. House of Representatives provided a gift of redemption for the Easter season when it overwhelmingly approved Thursday a bipartisan bill to improve Medicare and halt a 21 percent reduction in reimbursements to doctors.

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The so called “doc fix” bill that has been handled in an emergency fashion for more than a decade was passed by the House 392-37. With so much congratulating on both sides that it seemed a love fest would soon break out.

One Republican even wished Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi a happy birthday. Many Republicans took time for statements that pointed out they can “actually govern.”

Said Speaker John Boehner: “This is what we can accomplish when we’re focused on finding common ground.”

The common ground included a desire to end the emergency nature of the measure that has come up for the last decade or more. But Democrats also got Republicans to agree to extend funding for the children’s health care program that has been in place for years, and Democrats agreed to Republican ideas to charge higher Medicare premiums to wealthier seniors to rein in the burgeoning costs of the program.

Both wanted to address concerns from the physician community that continued threats to cutting already low reimbursement rates might actually cause doctors to stop seeing Medicare patients.

The Senate is likely to approve the plan and President Barack Obama said he will sign it.

The plan will cost about $214 billion over the next 10 years, with about $141 billion adding to the deficit, but the other cost covered by higher premiums and from providers like hospitals and nursing homes.

And while some conservatives didn’t like the bill adding to the deficit, Democrats also didn’t like abortion language in the bill. In the end, however, everyone gave a little and got a little.

Clearly, the problem needed fixing. And Congress had resorted to emergency measures 17 times since 2002, according to an Associated Press report.

But the bipartisan nature of the agreement is possibly more remarkable than the legislation itself. Democrats and Republicans came together on an important issue that improves our Medicare policy.

Said Pelosi: “It was my honor to work with Speaker Boehner on this important issue, to do what we came here to do — to legislate,”

Let’s hope this is the dawn of a new era.