WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown released the following statement today after the Senate passed a bipartisan Medicare and Medicaid tax extenders package that included, among other provisions, language to prevent Medicare physician payment rates from being cut in 2011. This provision will guarantee that Ohio seniors and military families maintain access to high-quality doctors. Also known as the “doc fix,” the legislation will ensure that Medicare and Tricare—health care for military service members and their families—will continue to pay participating physicians at existing payment levels. The Medicare and Medicaid Extenders Act of 2010 also included a technical fix to ensure that children’s hospitals can continue to receive discounted prices on orphan drugs as part of the “340B” drug program.
Access to High Quality Doctors for Medicare Patients
“Today, the Senate united to maintain health care access for seniors and military families while ensuring that doctors are not subjected to unfair payment cuts. The current Medicare physician payment formula penalizes providers for cost increases beyond their control and jeopardizes health care access for patients. The bill we passed today will ensure that providers and patients have relief for another year. Blocking unjustified payment cuts year after year after year is necessary, but it’s not good public policy. That is why I will continue to fight for a permanent solution to fix this flawed formula,” Brown said.
Under the Sustainable Growth Rate Formula (SGR), Medicare physician payment rates were scheduled to be reduced by 25 percent on January 1, 2011. Brown has repeatedly fought for legislation that would fix this flawed physician payment formula. In 2001, then-Representative Mike Bilirakis and then-Representative Brown authored the first bill to fix the SGR system. The tax extenders package will extend the current payment rates through December 2011.
Access to Discounted Prescription Drugs for Children’s Hospitals
“This bill will ensure that children’s hospitals in Ohio – which are some of the best in the world – and across the U.S. continue to receive discounts for critical drugs that treat and save our children’s lives. The 340B program offers significant savings to children’s hospitals — savings which help these hospitals meet the needs of vulnerable children who they serve—and I am so pleased that the Senate acted today to do something of the utmost importance for our nation’s children’s hospitals and our nation’s children,” Brown said.
Sen. Brown led Senate efforts to ensure that children’s hospitals can continue to participate in the “340B” program and have access to discounted orphan drugs. There are 347 drugs with orphan drug status and children’s hospitals use most of these on a daily basis. On November 30, 2010 Brown led a letter with 25 other Democratic Senators to Majority Leader Reid urging him to enact legislation to allow children’s hospitals to retain access to 340B drug discounts before the 111th Congress adjourns. On August 5, 2010 he led a letter with 16 Democratic Senators urging that Majority Leader Reid make a retroactive correction which would qualify children’s hospitals for the price discounts.
A full summary of the tax extender’s bill is available HERE.