Dems: GOP playing politics with Medicare

July 1, 2008 at 9:43 AM
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WASHINGTON, July 1 (UPI) -- Democratic lawmakers say the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is playing politics with Medicare payments to doctors.

Sens. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Monday accused HHS officials trying to protect the Bush administration and Republican lawmakers who voted in favor of reducing Medicare physicians' fees by 10.6 percent. They say a move by HHS to delay implementation of the lower fees is "a ruse" to provide political cover for the GOP, The Hill, a Washington newspaper, reported Tuesday.

HHS officials said Friday they would put a temporary hold on processing Medicare payments for 10 business days to "minimize the impact" of the lower fees on healthcare providers. The lower payments were approved last week after U.S. Senate Democrats fell one vote short of substituting a plan that would have retained current fee levels.

"It is our view that the administration is misleading the public by claiming to provide a 'temporary hold' on payment which is already authorized by law in order to give the appearance of being helpful to doctors in the Medicare program," Rockefeller and Schumer wrote in a letter to HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt.

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