Cochran, Wicker Seek Immediate Vote on Fix to Medicare Payment System

Senators Ask for Vote on Measure that Provides 18-Month Extension of Expiring Medicare Provisions

July 8, 2008

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker, both R-Miss., today expressed disappointment that their effort to avert payment cuts to doctors who treat Medicare patients was blocked by Senate Democrats.   

During debate this evening, Sen. Cochran asked for an immediate vote on S. 3118, legislation authored by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, that would extend for 18 months expiring Medicare provisions and stop payment cuts while providing a sufficient amount of time to permanently fix the Medicare payment system.  Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., objected and blocked the vote.  Sen. Wicker joined Sen. Cochran on the Senate floor to speak in support of his request for an immediate vote. 

Sen. Cochran said: “I support an 18 month extension of current Medicare law with the conclusion of a 1.1% increase in physician reimbursements. The Senate should also make an effort to identify long-term improvements that will strengthen a system that is badly in need of repair.”

Sen. Wicker added: “I support taking immediate action to stop these cuts, but the false choice Senate Democrats have provided us is unnecessary.  Instead of working for a bipartisan solution, the only option we have been given is one that stops the payments cuts to doctors by cutting Medicare benefits to 27,000 Mississippi seniors.  Playing a game of political chicken at the expense of the elderly is certainly not the solution to this problem.  We have recently passed extensions of other laws in order to provide the time to find bipartisan consensus on a long-term fix, and this situation shouldn’t be any different.  I urge Democratic leaders to rethink this decision and pass an extension that will allow us to put politics aside and do what’s right for America’s seniors and their doctors.” 

S. 3118 provides an 18-month extension with a .5 percent increase in the doctor reimbursement rate in 2008 and a 1.1 percent increase in 2009.