House Votes on Version of Senate Bill to Eliminate Medicare Fee Reduction; VA Epilepsy Centers of Excellence Act Passes

June 24, 2008

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Medicare Improvements Act 2008 Passes in the House

The US House of Representatives passed HR 6331, the "Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008," on a vote of 355 to 59. A majority of Republicans (115) joined House Democrats in approving the bill, with 59 Republicans voting in opposition. A modified version of S 3101—a bill put forward by Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-MT)—the legislation would erase an over ten-percent reduction to Medicare physician fees currently scheduled to take effect on July 1.

The House version of the bill would delay fee reduction for 18 months and increase payments by 1.1 percent in 2009. The bill would also impact physician reimbursement by applying budget neutrality adjustments to the conversion factor rather than work relative value units, a position that the AAN Professional Association (AANPA) has long supported as more equitable.

Through an extension of expiring provisions under the Medicare program, the bill also

  • Improves beneficiary access to preventive and mental health services
  • Enhances low-income benefit programs
  • Maintains access to care in rural areas, including pharmacy access

The Senate failed to move a similar bill forward last week. The AANPA continues to work with the Senate to come to a resolution on this matter, so that this vital legislation can be sent to the President prior to July 1, when the fee reduction would take place.

House Votes on Epilepsy Centers of Excellence Act

Tuesday’s House session also saw the passage of the Epilepsy Centers of Excellence Act of 2007 (HR 2818), which authorizes the establishment of five epilepsy treatment centers co-located at the Veterans’ Affairs (VA) Polytrauma Centers in Palo Alto, CA; Minneapolis, MN; San Antonio, TX; Richmond, VA; and Tampa, FL, to lead the way in epilepsy diagnosis, research, treatment, and surgery.

The bill, authored by US Representative Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), addresses the critical issues facing veterans who have experienced traumatic brain injuries (TBI). It was introduced in 2007 and was approved on June 24, 2008, on a voice vote.

“Our service men and women bravely fought for us, now it is time to fight for them and provide them with the best, highest quality medical care available,” said Perlmutter in a statement released after the vote. “We have a moral obligation to our service men and women who are defending our country overseas to help them when they return home.”

One of the most common injuries of the Iraq war, TBI is associated with cognitive dysfunction, post-traumatic epilepsy, headaches, and other motor and sensory neurological complications. Medical experts believe that 30 to 50 percent of brain injuries suffered by military personnel will develop into epilepsy. The centers are projected to care for veterans with seizures and, in particular, those who are at risk to develop epilepsy as a result of suffering a traumatic brain injury while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The bill now goes to a conference committee in the Senate. The AANPA will work with the conference committee to support the bill as it moves to a final resolution.

Contact your congressional representatives.

Related articles

Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act:

Medicare Physician Reimbursement Short Term Fix Proposed

Epilepsy Centers of Excellence Act:

AAN urges members to voice their support for H.R. 2818

AAN Testifies To Senate on Veterans’ TBI Bill (Neurology Today®, June 5, 2007)

Send a letter to Congress re. HR 2818