News Releases

Murray Gets Improvements in Medicare Reimbursement Rates for Washington

Jun 27 2003

Senate bill raises rural reimbursement rates, improves utilization rates

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – The Senate-passed Medicare prescription drug legislation approved earlier today will improve Washington state’s historically low Medicare reimbursement rates because of amendments pushed by Senator Patty Murray. The state’s low reimbursement rates have led some doctors to no longer see new Medicare patients and other doctors to leave the state altogether.

Part of the problem stems from Medicare’s complex funding system that has historically penalized rural areas. Healthcare providers in rural states get less money from Medicare for the very same procedure performed in urban areas.

But under Murray’s leadership, the prescription drug bill corrects this inequity by increasing the rural hospital amount so it equals the amount reimbursed to urban hospitals. The legislation also contains other important rural provisions, such as grants to help rural hospitals get needed funding to repair damaged facilities.

Murray also succeeded in passing another amendment in the prescription drug bill to improve Washington state’s utilization rate. Currently, seniors who are treated at Department of Defense or Veterans’ hospitals require longer, more expensive treatments than other hospitals, because these patients often require more care than other seniors. Yet the costs of these treatments are not counted when calculating the state’s overall average Medicare costs. Therefore, the reimbursement rate for each procedure under Medicare is lower than it should be. Murray succeeded in including an amendment that would allow the costs of treating seniors at DoD and Veterans Administration facilities to be factored into the state’s utilization rate, and will help increase the state’s overall Medicare reimbursement rate.

“All Americans contribute to Medicare, but seniors and doctors in Washington state do not receive the same benefits,” Murray said. “I have been working to correct the disparities in reimbursement rates, and have introduced legislation to close the gap.”

Murray continued, “The prescription drug bill passed early this morning will help close the gap between rural and urban areas and will increase our state’s reimbursement rate by counting DoD and Veterans Administration hospitals towards our state’s utilization rate. While these important steps will help seniors in Washington state, the job is not yet complete. I will continue to work on behalf of older Americans to ensure we are getting a fair deal.”