Medicare, Medicaid and SCHIP Extension Act passed

On December 18, 2007, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the Medicare, Medicaid and SCHIP (State Children’s Health Insurance Program) Extension Act of 2007 (S.2499). Besides other points, the Act thwarts the 10.1 percent cut to Medicare physician payments beginning on January 1, 2008 and as an alternative, gives a 6-month 0.5 percent increase for physicians through June 30, 2008. With the Act, the physician payment changes would be offset by an adjustment to the Medicare Advantage stabilization fund. The Act has been sent to the U.S. House of Representatives.

As stated by U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, ‘this important legislation ensures that Texas will have the funds necessary to meet current and future needs of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. Just as, SCHIP will be extended until March of 2009, with sufficient funding to prevent any kinds of shortfalls. Texas’ $1 billion in unspent SCHIP funding will stay in place and potential allotments will be calculated as they ought to be expected.

This legislation also prevents a 10% cut to physician payments under Medicare that is planned to go into effect on January 1, 2008. Now, physicians would receive a 0.5 percent increase until July 1, 2008. Senator Cornyn has supported preventing these cuts as many physicians would stop seeing Medicare beneficiaries. Physicians will once again be faced with a 10% cut if Congress does not act before July.

In a letter to Finance Committee leaders, Sen. Cornyn urged that the extension of SCHIP wouldn’t withhold funds that Texas relies upon for the program.

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