Legislative Update June 2008

H.R. 6003, Amtrak Reauthorization – New House Bill at Odds with Senate Plan

A breakdown of H.R. 6003, Amtrak Reauthorization was reported in the May 2008 Legislative Website Update.  With the meteoric rise in fuel prices and the need to address issues pertaining to global warming, the need for true intercity passenger rail has never been more apparent.  Thirty years ago, during the last energy crunch, a push was made to improve mass transit through passenger rail.  The crisis eased and the plan was mothballed.  H.R. 6003 would provide that serious funding to improve passenger rail; however, there are some troublesome provisions in the bill that the BLET is working to amend.  We will keep you posted as to when action is needed from our members.

S.1889, the Railroad Enhancement Act of 2007

There has still been no movement on the Senate version of the rail safety bill, but we will continue to monitor its progress and let you know if and when action is required.

Medicare Update

 

The following is from a June 1 email alert from Tom Dwyer, President of the National Association of Retired and Veteran Railway Employees (NARVRE):

According to the Associated Press, the Bush Administration is threatening to veto any legislation that protects doctors’ Medicare payments at the expense of private insurers.  Beginning on July 1, reimbursement rates by doctors will drop by 10.6 percent when they treat older and disabled patients participating in Medicare. To keep that from happening, Congress is looking at finding some $9 billion in savings from other Medicare programs over the next five years. Medicare Advantage (private plans) are at the top of the list for Democrats and some Republicans to cut, since they receive generous government subsidies to serve their 9.5 million beneficiaries. These subsidies, which will reach $730 billion over a ten year span, were the product of the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan enacted in 2003. The veto threat came in a May 22 letter to Senator Charles Grassley, R-IA. Senator Grassley is the Ranking Member on the Senate Finance Committee. Senator Max Baucus, D-MT is overseeing the drafting of the Medicare legislation. The senator is aware of the Administration’s concerns—the government pays about 13% more for patients in Medicare Advantage than for comparable patients in traditional Medicare. The bottom line here is that the Administration is putting the interest of private insurers before those of seniors.