fah hospital policy blog

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

Senator Rubio Urges HHS Secretary Burwell to Protect Seniors and the Medicare Backstop

January 27, 2015 | FAH Hospital Policy Blog Team

Category: Backstop, Medicare

Last week, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida wrote a letter to HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell urging her to leave cuts to Medicare bad debt out of the FY 2016 budget. The letter emphasizes the need for sufficient funds to cover Medicare bad debt, a provision of the program often referred to as the Medicare backstop, to help care for and protect Florida seniors.

Even with Medicare coverage, some seniors cannot afford their cost-sharing obligations, which leaves a portion of their hospital care uncompensated. When Medicare was created nearly 50 years ago, the backstop was established as a fundamental component of the program specifically for those seniors who would not be able to pay.  The Medicare backstop was built to cover 100% of uncompensated cost-sharing; unfortunately, in recent years Congress has taken advantage of the provision and reduced the Medicare backstop to just 65%, which leaves hospitals on the hook for 35% of uncompensated care.

With a large senior population, Florida is disproportionately impacted by cuts to the Medicare backstop.   As Senator Rubio notes in his letter:

“These payments…are critically important to hospitals in my state and across the country…. Cutting these payments is not a solution to the long-term fiscal sustainability of the Medicare program.”

American seniors should not have to worry about whether or not they can afford their cost-share when in need of medical attention -- this is the tenet upon which the backstop was built.  Further cuts to this foundation of our health care system will impact patient access to care for our most vulnerable citizens who require disproportionately more care at their age.  It is critical that we leave the Medicare backstop intact.

The FAH thanks Senator Marco Rubio for standing up for America’s seniors, and his continued support in protecting the Medicare backstop.