US Congress overrides Bush veto to pass Medicare finance law

[JURIST] The US Congress enacted a new Medicare law [HR 6331 text] on Tuesday to cut Medicare expenditures by reducing Medicare payments made to insurance companies rather than those made to doctors. President George W. Bush vetoed [text] the bill, but the Senate overrode the veto [Congressional record; roll call] by a vote of 70-26, while the House overrode it [Congressional record; roll call] by a vote of 383-41. The law was designed [AMA bill highlights, PDF] to benefit physicians and Medicare recipients by covering services such as mental health and preventative care, incentivizing modernization through services such as online prescriptions, limiting the ability of private fee-for-service health plans to unilaterally include physicians, and postponing a 10.6 percent Medicare pay cut to physicians for 18 months. In his veto, Bush wrote:

I support the primary objective of this legislation, to forestall reductions in physician payments. Yet taking choices away from seniors to pay physicians is wrong.
Both houses of Congress, as well as groups such as the American Medical Association (AMA) [advocacy materials], supported the bill as a benefit to both physicians and Medicare recipients. Under the bill, the Medicare managed-care system, which subsidizes private insurance companies to provide certain medical care, will bear the costs. Bloomberg has more. The Washington Post has additional coverage.

In April 2007, the Senate rejected [JURIST report] legislation permitting the Department of Health and Human Services [official website] or another federal government entity to intervene in Medicare [JURIST news archive] drug-pricing negotiations between drug makers and private insurance plans on behalf of beneficiaries. Advocates of the legislation argued that government involvement in drug-pricing negotiations would result in lower health care costs for the elderly and taxpayers. Opponents countered that the Medicare program was already achieving lower-than-expected drug costs for seniors through the use of private insurance companies and that the measure would have a negligible effect on federal health care expenditures.

 

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