Upton hearing constituents during breakPublished 9:10pm Thursday, August 8, 2013
Advancing Medicare payment reform for physicians and seniors tops U.S. Rep. Fred Upton’s eight-item agenda.
For more than two years, the Republican congressman from St. Joseph and third-year chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee has helped lead a bipartisan effort to permanently fix the fundamentally flawed Medicare payment model which reimburses doctors.
The current Medicare payment system — known as the Sustainable Growth Rate, or SGR — has been a source of continued worry, threatening physicians who served Medicare beneficiaries with substantial across-the-board cuts in reimbursement.
In late July, before the 113th Congress went on recess until after Labor Day, Upton’s committee unanimously approved a permanent SGR fix (H.R. 2810) that secures stable payments for doctors while promoting the highest quality of care and gives Michigan seniors peace of mind in knowing their trusted physicians will be there for them.
“This has been a real problem the last number of years, not only for the physician community, but also for seniors over 65 eligible for Medicare,” Upton said Thursday morning in an interview at the Niles Daily Star. “Physicians were faced with the decision — often the threat — of a 25- to 30-percent reduction in their services. We passed this bill out 51-0. We worked on this, which didn’t even have a hearing under my predecessor, for 2 1/2 years, with a lot of input from physician groups and stakeholders. It will be included as part of a larger bill we’ll have on the floor in October or November.”
Upton also advocates “meaningful oversight” of the health care law.
In the years since the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) was written and signed into law, it has been plagued by broken promises, implementation challenges, delays and budget nightmares.
Upton’s committee held multiple hearings to examine its impact on jobs and health insurance premiums. He met with employers such as Lake Michigan Mailers, ServiceMaster and Stryker to hear firsthand how the law’s mandates and penalties are harming their business operations and health care for their workers, focusing in Washington on full repeal.
Upton promotes North American energy independence and building an “architecture of abundance,” including the $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline.
In April, Keith Stelter, co-owner of Delta Industrial Valves in Niles, testified it would mean more jobs for his company, which could double in size over the next 10 years, and, consequently, create more employment opportunities for Niles-area residents. Opponents counter Canadian oil sands threaten the environment.
Delta Industrial Valves are not used in pipelines, but in refineries.
After the pipeline ruptured in Calhoun County three summers ago, “We passed the Upton-Dingell safety bill, which the president signed a year ago January,” Upton said. “We upgraded 57 different standards for any new oil and gas pipeline, so this one Enbridge is building will subscribe to more frequent inspections, automatic shutoff valves, problems have to be reported within an hour, higher fines and we required a study just completed. With the Al Qaeda threat to blow up pipelines in Yemen, you can imagine what would happen to the world price of oil if that took place. It again underscores the need to develop energy independence for North America so we can tell that part of the region to stick it.”
“One of the big issues we’re going to be dealing with when we come back,” said Upton, speaking later to Lakeshore Rotary, “is the fiscal year ends Sept. 30 and we have not dealt with spending priorities. The House passed four appropriations bills, the Senate zero. To avoid a shutdown, we have to come to an agreement. There are some suggesting we defund Obamacare, and that is the only way they’ll vote to keep the government open. I don’t think that’s a good idea.
“It’s my sense we’ll see, in essence, an extension of the fiscal year at level funding. That’s called a continuing resolution, or CR, to allow time to negotiate the balance of the fiscal year. I’m predicting we’ll not have a shutdown. That’s the last thing the most vulnerable need, particularly those who depend on Social Security checks or troops with families here and mortgage and car payments. I think the farm bill will be resolved. We’re going to be announcing some hearings on climate change in September.”
Upton involved himself at Palisades with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Entergy Corp. to make sure the nuclear power plant operates safely.
After a tank leaked May 5, he brought NRC Commissioner Kristine Svinicki to the facility in Van Buren County’s Covert Township for a first-hand inspection.
Diluted radioactive water leaked from the safety injection and refueling water (SIRW) tank into Lake Michigan.
The tank bottom was replaced. Palisades returned to service June 17.
Tags: U.S. Rep. Fred Upton