Congress Fails to Act on Medicare $1,500 Caps Due Back on Jan. 1, ASHA Continues to Fight for Repeal Policy Analysis
Policy Analysis  |   December 01, 2002
Congress Fails to Act on Medicare
Author Notes
  • Reed Franklin, is the director of ASHA’s Capitol Hill office.
    Reed Franklin, is the director of ASHA’s Capitol Hill office.×
Article Information
Regulatory, Legislative & Advocacy / Policy Analysis
Policy Analysis   |   December 01, 2002
Congress Fails to Act on Medicare
The ASHA Leader, December 2002, Vol. 7, 1-11. doi:10.1044/leader.PA1.07222002.1
The ASHA Leader, December 2002, Vol. 7, 1-11. doi:10.1044/leader.PA1.07222002.1
After racing through its post-election lame-duck session, Congress adjourned in November without addressing critical issues for seniors, including a Medicare drug benefit and the resumption of financial caps on outpatient services. As a result, the $1,500 combined cap on speech-language pathology and physical therapy services is due to resume on Jan. 1, after a two-year moratorium won by ASHA and other health care organizations.
This turn of events was triggered by the unexpected Republican election sweep on Nov. 5. The party sought to delay consideration of Medicare legislation until January, when they will control both houses of Congress as well as the White House.
“We are extremely disappointed that Congress left town without correcting these inequities in Medicare,” said Larry Higdon, ASHA’s vice president for governmental and social policies. “But we are preparing a full-court press in January to urge Congress to make Medicare its first order of business in the new session.”
The Medicare legislation has been mired in a partisan fight over a prescription drug benefit for beneficiaries. In June, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a Medicare bill that included a prescription drug program as well as a two-year extension of the cap moratorium and a fix to update the formula for the Medicare fee schedule.
“The House bill was a huge victory for ASHA members,” Higdon noted.
Although the House passed the Medicare bill, the controversy followed the bill to the Senate, where legislation did not make it to the Senate floor.
“We received substantial support for the caps’ repeal this year, and are reviewing our strategies in order to continue building momentum on the issue,” Higdon said.
He stressed that the majority of Republicans are in favor of repealing the $1,500 caps. “Sen. John Ensign of Nevada and other Republicans have championed this issue for ASHA,” he said.
Working With the New Congress
The change in the Senate should not dramatically affect most areas of ASHA’s legislative agenda, with the possible exception of passage of appropriations bills to fund the National Institutes of Health, early hearing detection and intervention, and other priorities.
“ASHA’s agenda is based on the needs of our members and the people they serve,” Higdon said. “While it is unlikely that our objectives will change, we will redirect our strategies to achieve our policy goals.”
Higdon added that the ASHA Political Action Committee (ASHA-PAC) helps achieve legislative initiatives. “Among candidates supported by the ASHA-PAC, nine out of 10 won, and support was given to 62 candidates on key committees. That gives us a lot of access,” he said.
“We’ve made a lot of progress. Getting rid of the $1,500 caps is going to be a tough fight, though, and we need to keep up the pressure,” he added.
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December 2002
Volume 7, Issue 22