With a Commitment to Fix the MED Issue, Alexander and Corker Vote for Bill to Delay Cuts in Medicare Payments to Physicians

Posted on July 9, 2008

U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Bob Corker (R-TN) today announced an agreement to reinstate the Regional Medical Center at Memphis’ (The MED) ability to be reimbursed for treating Medicaid and uninsured patients from Arkansas and Mississippi, which allowed them to vote in favor of H.R. 6331, the Medicare Improvements to Patients and Providers Act, to reverse a 10.6 percent cut in Medicare payments to physicians. “We have been fighting for fair treatment for Tennessee hospitals – including the MED in Memphis – and we believe we’ve finally received assurance that changes will be made to help the MED provide care to the poorest citizens in Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi,” Alexander said. “The physician payment problem was never the issue for us. Every single senator, Democrat and Republican, always intended to solve this problem.” “I know this process has been very disruptive to our physicians, their practices and their families, and I appreciate their patience as we worked to secure the best possible deal for Tennessee,” said Corker. “While I would have preferred that the MED fix be included in this bill, we received a strong commitment from Senate leadership that the fix for the MED will be resolved as soon as possible. I’m gratified that we have been able to reach an agreement that delays harmful physician payment cuts, and I hope we’ll begin to work on a long-term solution so that this never happens again.” Before the Senate’s July Fourth recess, Alexander and Corker voted against proceeding to consideration of H.R. 6331, the Medicare Improvements to Patients and Providers Act, as it was previously written, in order to push negotiators back to the table to resolve this funding issue for the MED. In discussions with Senate leadership, Alexander and Corker were able to secure strong commitments that language reinstating the MED’s ability to be reimbursed for treating Medicaid and uninsured patients from Arkansas and Mississippi will pass the Senate as soon as possible. The MED is the primary emergency hospital provider in a 150-mile wide, tri-state area that includes Memphis as well as parts of northern Mississippi and southeastern Arkansas. According to the MED, uninsured patients account for approximately 30 percent of their caseload, resulting in $80 million annually in uncompensated care costs that the facility cannot absorb on its own. This issue has put a huge financial strain not only on the MED and Shelby County, but also on the entire safety net infrastructure throughout Tennessee. The cloture motion on H.R. 6331, the Medicare Improvements to Patients and Providers Act passed by a vote of 69-30, and following cloture the actual bill was passed by unanimous consent. The bill now goes to the President.