U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander today released the following statement regarding his vote against S. 3101, Senator Baucus’ Medicare bill:
“Both the Baucus and the Grassley bills include important provisions for preserving seniors’ access to Medicare, but the Baucus bill is the wrong Medicare bill for Tennessee. The Senate should take up Senator Grassley’s bill instead because, unlike the Baucus bill, it doesn’t make large, unwarranted cuts to Medicare Advantage programs, which help provide prescription drug coverage to nearly 200,000 seniors in our state. It also doesn’t cut payments for oxygen equipment and powered wheelchairs upon which many Tennesseans depend. But the Grassley bill does include specific provisions that are important to keeping Tennessee hospitals afloat.”
Alexander pointed out that the Grassley bill – S. 3118, the Preserving Access to Medicare Act of 2008 – includes Tennessee-specific provisions that:
* Provide for an expansion of Tennessee’s Medicare Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) payments for 18 months, until March 31, 2010. DSH payments help compensate hospitals – like UT Medical Center, Erlanger Hospital, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and the Regional Medical Center at Memphis (the MED) – that treat large numbers of Medicaid and uninsured patients.
* Reinstate the Regional Medical Center at Memphis’ (The MED) ability to be reimbursed for treating Medicaid and uninsured patients from Arkansas and Mississippi. 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. Uninsured patients account for approximately 25 percent of the MED’s total caseload, resulting in $80 million annually in uncompensated care costs that the facility cannot absorb on its own.
The motion to proceed to S. 3101 received 54 votes. Under Senate rules, 60 votes were required.