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Senate Democrats, unable to garner the 60 votes needed to pass legislation that included the “doc fix”, instead extracted the provision and passed it as a separate bill.

The amended version of H.R. 3962, now called the “Preservation of Access to Care for Medicare Beneficiaries and Pension Relief Act of 2010,” would prevent a 21 percent cut in rates paid to physicians who treat Medicare/TRICARE patients but only through November 30, 2010.  It would also increase the rates by 2.2 percent.

The 21 percent payment cut, which is a result of flaws in Medicare’s physician payment formula, the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula, took effect June 1.  The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services placed a temporary hold on Medicare reimbursement claims processing to delay implementing the reduced doctor payments.  Unfortunately, the agency was forced to begin processing Medicare claims with the 21 percent payment cut on June 18 in order to reimburse doctors’ offices for their services.  They are saying they will quickly process retroactive payments if the bill becomes law.

If it becomes law depends on what action the House takes when they reconvene June 22.  In a statement released late last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi blasted the Senate’s plan as “inadequate” and deemed the measure dead on arrival.  “I see no reason to pass this inadequate bill until we see jobs legislation coming out of the Senate.”  She was referring to the original legislation that would have extended expired middle-class tax breaks and jobless benefits and included a longer extension for the “doc fix” – 19 months instead of six months.

While we want Congress to find a permanent solution to this problem, our immediate concern is to undo the payment rate cut and provide retroactive payments to doctors before even more of them start refusing to treat Medicare and TRICARE patients.  A letter from AUSA President Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA, Ret., is going to House Democratic and Republican leaders today urging them to take action on this immediately.  I’m asking that you once again add your voice to his.  Go to the AUSA website, www.ausa.org, click on “Contact Congress”, type in your zip code beside “Elected Officials”, and scroll down to “Vote YES on the Preservation of Access to Care for Medicare Beneficiaries and Pension Relief Act of 2010”.


AUSA’s leadership is dismayed by a report released last week by a task force formed to look at ways to cut defense spending.

The Sustainable Defense Task Force, formed under the auspices of Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., is proposing a $1.1 trillion reduction in defense spending over 10 years, including $628.5 billion in personnel-related programs.

An article in this week’s Army Times breaks down the Task Force’s recommendations.

They would:

* Reduce the Army from 547,000 active duty soldiers to about 360,000.

* Include full military pay and allowances – not just basic pay – in comparisons of military compensation and private-sector salaries.  The task force believes that including all aspects of pay – and the tax advantage of some tax-free allowances – could show that military compensation exceeds that of comparable private-sector workers and would result in smaller raises or maybe no raises at all.

* Increase out-of-pocket expenses for working-age military retirees enrolled in TRICARE by linking premiums for coverage to Medicare Part B premiums.  For TRICARE Prime, retirees under age 65 would pay about $38.56 a month for single retirees coverage, 40 percent of the Medicare Part B premium, with a premium of $77.12 for family coverage.  TRICARE Standard and Extra premiums would be $5.70 a month for single coverage, 15 percent of the Part B premium, and $11.40 for families.  Premiums would increase any time Social Security increases.

* Shave $1.2 billion off the $4 billion annual cost of recruiters and recruiting after cutting the size of the force and ending or reducing combat deployments.  Savings would come from having fewer recruiters, reduced administrative and advertising costs, and spending less on bonuses.

* Consolidate the separate commissary and exchange systems.  The savings would come mainly from eliminating the taxpayer subsidy for commissaries, which could increase prices by requiring a bigger markup or surcharge on grocery items and other commissary products.

* Eliminate about 280,000 jobs in DoD’s civilian work force over 10 years, mostly by not replacing people who retire or leave for other work.  Retirements alone would account for much of the cut because more than 50 percent of current civilian workers will be eligible to retire before 2020.

At a press conference last week, Rep. Frank was joined by Reps. Walter Jones, R-N.C., Ron Paul, R-Texas and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.  The group released a copy of a letter they wrote to President Obama’s National Commission of Fiscal Responsibility of Reform urging that they take a serious look at the conclusions reached by the task force.

In his latest on-line message, AUSA President Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA, Ret., said, “At a time when our military resources are engaged in fighting two wars, our service members are dying on battlefields around the world, and the pay gap is not yet closed, attempts to trim budget shortfalls at the expense of military pay and benefits would appear to be tremendously misguided.  Imagine the impact on morale that almost flat paychecks would have on soldiers driving on explosives-lined roads in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Budget corrections should not come from military personnel accounts and benefits.  Soldiers count – and to maintain high recruiting and retention rates, we must not cut quality of life benefits.  We owe it to our brave service members who are in harm’s way, not to use their pay and benefits for budget-cutting target practice.”


“We begin to have to do stupid things if the supplemental isn’t passed by July Fourth,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates told the Senate Appropriations Committee at a hearing last week.

The Senate approved the department’s $33 billion request to pay for continued military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. The House has yet to act.  If there are any differences in the bills, they would have to be resolved in a conference committee and returned to both chambers for final action.

“We will turn to O & M [operations and maintenance] money” to pay for the Navy and the Marine Corps.  “The Army comes a little later.”  At that time, the Army “would have to furlough civilians and not pay” soldiers, said Gates.

House leaders said they are “optimistic” that the war supplemental spending bill can be moved this week.  However, it depends on whether or not House Appropriations Committee Chairman David R. Obey, D-Wis., can find acceptable cuts from already enacted spending to offset the cost of a provision in the bill that would send aid to states in order to prevent teacher layoffs.  Obey has proposed an $84 billion version including $23 billion for schools and $1.7 billion to retain and hire police officers and firefighters — spending he said would have the added benefit of boosting local economies.

AUSA President Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA, Ret., urged key lawmakers to pass the spending bill before the July 4 recess.  “In a time of war, expeditious completion of defense legislation is absolutely essential.  Our Army in the field needs timely access to appropriate funding,” he said.

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Published in: on June 21, 2010 at 8:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

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