Friday, 31 March 2023

House improves health care for children, seniors and rural areas


WASHINGTON – On Friday, the House Ways and Means Committee, of which Rep. Mike Thompson is a member, approved major legislation extending health insurance coverage to millions of children and improving the Medicare program. The Children’s Health and Medicare Protection Act (CHAMP Act) represents the government’s most significant investment in children’s healthcare since 1997.



“This legislation makes it clear that improving our country’s healthcare system is a top priority for Congress, particularly when it comes to taking better care of children, seniors and low-income Americans," said Thompson.



Specifically, the legislation equips states with the tools and the means to find and enroll more than 80 percent of the six million kids eligible for but not enrolled in the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. It also makes significant changes to our Medicare program, improving primary and preventive benefits for our seniors, strengthening low income assistance programs, and bringing payment parity to various Medicare providers.



In addition, the bill eliminates the scheduled cuts in Medicare’s physician reimbursement rates (10 percent in 2008 and 5 percent in 2009), and replaces them with a rate increase. This will impact doctors across the nation and preserve access to care in many communities, including those throughout California's 1st Congressional District.



The CHAMP Act also expands reimbursement provisions critical to rural communities, which are scheduled to expire at the end of this year. These provisions directly benefit the 1st District, from increased reimbursements for rural ambulance services and rural home health services to bonus payments for physicians practicing in underserved areas. Thompson has coauthored legislation that many of these provisions were based upon, the H-CARE Act (HR 2860).



“Rural communities often struggle to provide residents with access to doctors and medical services," said Thompson. “As a member of the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, I’ve consistently fought to improve healthcare in rural areas, and today we achieved a tremendous victory. This legislation will give rural counties a leg up in their efforts to attract high-quality healthcare providers."



The bill also makes critical investments in Medicare’s preventive benefits – keeping seniors healthier longer saves money in the long term and improves quality of life now. These investments include waivers for co-payments on many cancer screening benefits, and are also based upon legislation Congressman Thompson authored earlier this month (HR 3042).



“Sixty percent of new cancer diagnoses and 70 percent of cancer deaths occur in people over 65, so we should be making it as easy as possible for seniors to get regular cancer screenings," said Thompson. “If we eliminate the Medicare co-pays, more seniors will get screened and stay healthier longer."



Additional legislation authored by Thompson was also included in the CHAMP Act. Specifically, the act permanently waives Medicare’s 60-day leave of absence limitation for National Guard and Reserve physicians called to active duty. This provision is based on Thompson’s legislation, HR 3007.



“These restrictions cause real hardships for physicians in the Armed Forces Reserve and the Guard, who are absent from their practices for much longer than 60 days when they are called up for active duty," said Thompson. “My legislation ensures that doctors in the Reserve and Guard only need to find one replacement doctor while they’re gone. This will help more than 3,000 doctors protect their patients and practices when called to serve."



Finally, the bill grants California the authority to continue providing adult day health services through the Medi-Cal program. With this authority in jeopardy late last year, Thompson forged a coalition of 37 Members of Congress from the eight impacted states to spearhead this change.



Thompson is a senior Member of the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over the Medicare program. This legislation is expected to be considered by the full House next week, and must be reconciled with similar Senate legislation prior to being sent to the President and signed into law.


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