Lincoln: Use TARP Funds to Fix Medicare and Tricare Doctor Payments System

Washington – U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) said today that more physicians will stop accepting Medicare patients unless Congress finds a way to pay for reasonable reimbursement rates.  She said her colleagues should approve her proposal to use unused funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) to cover the cost.

“During debate of Medicare reimbursement rates in 1995 and 1996, I made a plea to my House colleagues that we simply could not balance our nation’s budget on the backs of health care providers.  Unfortunately, not all members of Congress shared my view, and every year since, Congress has had to correct this misguided policy and prevent cuts in reimbursement rates so that Medicare beneficiaries will not be denied access to their doctors.

“I firmly believe that Congress can and should work to implement a long-term solution to the flawed payment formula once and for all.  It is vital to preserve the ability of Arkansas’s seniors to see their physicians when they need medical care.

“I believe just as strongly that we need to pay for this policy change and ensure it does not add to the deficit.  That’s why I authored two amendments to the Medicare Physician Fairness Act that would redirect unused funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Fund (TARP) to cover the cost of this needed improvement to the Medicare program.

“In January, I voted against authorizing further taxpayer funds to continue the operation of the TARP because the program had failed to provide relief to families and small businesses in Arkansas hit by the credit crisis.

“In this year’s third quarter, two Wall Street banks, JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs, realized strong profits and have set aside billions for executive compensation.  At the same time, nearly 800,000 American jobs were lost, including 3,600 Arkansas jobs, and thousands of Americans filed for bankruptcy because of rising health care costs.  TARP expires at the end of this year, and I believe we should redirect its funds for a more useful purpose to help the people of Main Street.  We should use TARP funds to help our seniors instead of spending one more dollar for excessive Wall Street bonuses.  Enough is enough.

“Unfortunately, the vote to proceed to this legislation was not successful today, but I am committed to continuing to work with members on both sides of the aisle to provide a solution to this problem in a way that will not increase the debt burden for future generations.”