Rep. Ross criticizes Medicare reform

Friday, October 31, 2003

MEDTRADE - Rep. Mike Ross agreed that Medicare beneficiaries need “meaningful” reforms, but said the bill being hammered out in Congress isn’t the right one.
Drafted ostensibly to give seniors a Medicare drug benefit, the Arkansas Democrat who owns an HME/Pharmacy contends that current Medicare reform legislation is heavily influenced by the powerful pharmaceutical lobby, will most likely contain competitive bidding and reimbursement cuts and will privatize the entire Medicare system by 2010.

“The drug manufacturers are too close to the Republicans and they control the debate,” Ross told a packed house at AAHomecare’s Washington Update session. “Their fingerprints are all over this bill. It even contains language that prohibits the federal government from negotiating lower drug prices.”

What’s more, proponents strongly support mandatory competitive bidding and are determined to get it, he said.

“I’ve talked to them until I’m blue in the face to get them to understand that telling seniors who their provider will be is wrong,” Ross said. “When I talk to them about HME, I tell them: ‘Don’t look at what it costs you, look at what it saves you.’”

As a member of the “Blue Dog Coalition” of conservative Democrats in Congress, Ross insists that even though he is critical of Republicans on the Medicare reform issue, he is willing to work in a bipartisan fashion.

“I’m sick and tired of partisan bickering,” he said. “It shouldn’t be about what makes each party look good. It’s about giving your constituents a voice. If either party has a good idea, I’m getting behind it.”

During the session, AAHomecare President Kay Cox presented Ross with the Patient Advocate Award for his pro-industry stance.

“Mike Ross knows what we’re dealing with,” Cox said. “He is a rising star in the House. Trial lawyers support their own in Congress, it’s time for us to support our own.”