Legislative Update January 2011

Protecting Seniors Access to Doctors Act

 

  1. 3965, the Protecting Seniors Access to Doctors Act, a $15 billion bill to amend the Social Security Act to ensure continued access to Medicare for seniors and people with disabilities was passed on December 8. This legislation blocks the impending 25 percent reduction in reimbursement rates for doctors treating Medicare patients and will continue current doctors’ reimbursement rates through all of 2011. The cut was scheduled to take effect January 1, 2011.

What the bill does not do is fix the sustainable growth rate problem and, unless Congress figures out a long-term solution, doctors will be subject to a more than 25 percent cut in the Medicare payment rate in 2012.

President Obama stated: “This agreement is an important step forward to stabilize Medicare, but our work is far from finished. For too long, we have confronted this reoccurring problem with temporary fixes and stop-gap measures. It’s time for a permanent solution that seniors and their doctors can depend on and I look forward to working with Congress to address this matter once and for all in the coming year.”

High Speed Rail Project Money to be Reissued

Remember those two newly-elected governors in Ohio and Wisconsin mentioned in previous updates who stated they would kill the high speed rail projects in their states and keep the federal money to use as they see fit? The National Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, recently announced that both states will lose all of the $1.9 billion in federal grant money, and the Federal Railroad Administration will dispense those dollars to other rail projects across 13 states. This work would have created 30,000 new jobs.

Lame Duck Session

The “Lame Duck Session” of Congress that began on November 15 following the mid-term elections, and ended when lawmakers left Capitol Hill on December 22 for Christmas, is being called the most productive post-election period in decades. More pieces of major legislation were passed during the month of December than since March when the health reform bill was passed. Democrats moved forward aggressively on controversial legislation they had worked on all year, and were joined by a handful of moderate Republicans who saw this session as the last opportunity to move forward on key issues before the more fiscally and socially conservative Republican majority in the House and increased conservative minority in the Senate made such moves impossible.

Accomplishments on the Senate side included:

* The tax cut compromise extending the Bush tax cuts, creating new Obama tax cuts and  extending unemployment insurance (12/15)

* The repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy (12/18)

* The food safety bill (12/19)

* The 9/11 First Responders Bill (12/22)

* New START ratification (12/22)