Recent Press Releases

Washington, D.C. —  Today the Senate passed the Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP Extension Act of 2007 by unanimous consent. This bill prevents cuts to physicians' payments under Medicare, and provides an extension of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) through March 31, 2009, with additional funding to cover states' shortfalls.

"First, I am pleased that this legislation finally authorizes a long-term extension of SCHIP funding," said Thune. "I am relieved that Democratic Leadership has stopped playing politics with children's health care and has simply given the states what they asked for-an extension of the program. For too long, states and families have been concerned about what Congress was doing with this popular program, and I am glad that we finally were able to pass legislation that will allow states to continue to meet the health care needs of children across this country."
This legislation also will replace the scheduled 10.1 percent cut to the Medicare physician reimbursement rate in 2008 with a 0.5 percent increase through June 30, 2008.

"While I am pleased that this legislation delays a significant pay cut for physicians, I believe we need to find a way to make this permanent. Congress has made temporary fix after temporary fix, which continues to leave uncertainty for doctors. We need to work to find a way to permanently reform the physician pay system, and in a way that will ensure that our seniors in rural areas continue to have access to care."

In addition, this bill extends several important provisions for rural hospitals and providers. The bill extends bonus payments to physicians serving in Health Professional Shortage Areas, allows laboratories to continue to bill Medicare directly for certain physician pathology services, and contains other provisions that help address inequities in the Medicare system that put rural providers and hospitals at a disadvantage.

"Rural areas have unique needs when it comes to healthcare, including the ability to attract appropriate health care personnel. Because people live in rural areas does not mean that patients or providers should be burdened with greater costs or have less than adequate care."

This legislation also extends the Special Diabetes Program through September 30, 2009 to fund Type 1 diabetes research and Type 2 treatment and prevention programs for Native Americans and Alaska Natives.

"Diabetes continues to be a big concern on our reservations and many tribes in our state have been able to benefit from the Special Diabetes Program. We must work together to find solutions that reduce the number of people dealing with diabetes."

The bill must now be considered by the House of Representatives before it can be sent to the President for his consideration.