fah hospital policy blog

Perspectives on health policy affecting America’s hospitals and the patients we serve.

Senator Roy Blunt Urges Administration to Protect Low-Income Seniors

March 18, 2015 | FAH Hospital Policy Blog Team

Category: Backstop, Medicare

In a letter sent this week to the Department of Health and Human Services, Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) urges Secretary Sylvia Burwell to reconsider the Administration’s proposed budget cut to a critical program for hospitals that care for low-income seniors, commonly referred to as Medicare bad debt payments. Senator Blunt joins and many other members of Congress from both parties working to protect access to care for low-income seniors.

Since 1966, the Medicare program has ensured that hospitals who care for seniors who are unable to meet their cost-sharing obligations have a backstop that would help cover this cost.

This so-called backstop was built to cover 100% of the unpaid cost-share from low-income seniors.  However, policymakers have cut Medicare bad debt reimbursements to just 65%. These cuts directly hurts seniors and the hospitals that care for them.

In his letter, Senator Blunt seeks protection for communities in Missouri:

“In 2013, Missouri’s low income Medicare-Medicaid beneficiaries accounted for nearly 60 percent of the state’s Medicare bad debt.”  “Medicare bad debt payments are a critical backstop for seniors in Missouri, many of whom continue to financially struggle in this weakened economy. This reimbursement ensures that seniors in Missouri are able to maintain access to essential health care services, even when they simply cannot afford to pay their cost share.”

Of most concern, the President’s 2016 budget calls for cutting Medicare bad debt payments to hospitals, over three years, to  just 25%.  This radical cut would have a huge impact on patient access to care for all Americans. 

The letter explains:  

“Avoiding our nation’s future entitlement problems and pursuing cuts such as Medicare bad debt, is the wrong path. Congress has never held a hearing on “Medicare bad debt, MedPAC has not issue any recommendations on this policy, and yet the Administration continues to propose these types of cuts which appear to be arbitrary and will not serve as a solution to the issue of fiscal viability confronting the Medicare program.”

The FAH thanks Senator Blunt for his strong support of Missouri’s seniors and hospitals.