New change in medicare program helps doctors and patients

WASHINGTON, D.C. (KHNL) - Congressman Neil Abercrombie announced a new change to the Medicare and Medicaid program on Tuesday, a change that should help both island patients and doctors.

"The Medicare Improvement for Patients and Providers Act, passed overwhelmingly today in the House of Representatives, takes several important steps to improve the delivery of Medicare and Medicaid services in Hawaii," Abercrombie said.

The Act plans to ensure that doctors are reimbursed for treating Medicare and Medicaid patients. This new bill blocked a former bill that proposed a 10% cut in the amount doctors were to receive for patient services. Some in the medical field believed the proposed financial cut which was to take effect July 1, would have threatened to undermine access to care for Medicare patients.

There is speculation that some hospitals have been losing money from treating both the uninsured and Medicaid patients. Such a financial loss could threaten a hospitals ability to remain open. Both Hawaii and Tennessee were excluded from a federal program that reimburses treatment for the uninsured and Medicaid patients.

Plans to further change the Medicare and Medicaid program are still being hashed out in Congress. Tuesday's passing of this legislation will allow more time until the program can be changed permanently.

The current changes in the Medicare Improvement Act are;

Medicare providers that charge 12% more than regular Medicare services will be lowered.

Doctors and medical service providers who fail to file their taxes on time will have their back taxes deducted from any Medicare reimbursements they receive.

Mental health services will have the same co-payment as any other doctor visit.

Abercrombie adds, "This bill also provides needed help to lower income Medicare recipients."

The Act is hopefully a prescription for the health of hospitals and patients.