Businesses Attorneys Support Bipartisan Bill to Strengthen Medicare Settle Seniors Claims

Imagine a bipartisan Medicare bill, one that is already co-sponsored by Members from as far from the other side on most issues as possible: Republican Representatives like Ron Paul, Tim Murphy, Don Young, and Howard Coble; and Democratic Representatives like Ron Kind, Diana DeGette, Linda Sanchez, and Tammy Baldwin. That’s H.R. 1063, the “Strengthening Medicare And Repaying Taxpayers Act of 2011” (“SMART Act”), which would help to replenish the Trust Fund, ensure that seniors and their attorneys settle injury claims quickly, and reduce paperwork burdens for businesses.

When seniors on Medicare are hurt in an accident and sue the other party, they file conditional Medicare claims to pay for treatment. Federal law requires the injured person’s attorney to repay Medicare upon a judgment or settlement, before any funds are given to the injured senior. The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is supposed to give the attorney a final figure for the total amount to repay, but CMS is slow and inaccurate. As a result, it can take years to finally pay off even the smallest claim, and the senior doesn’t see a dime of the settlement. In extreme cases, CMS has even dunned seniors years after the accident, sometimes for ridiculously small amounts of money.

H.R. 1063 takes care of all that. It streamlines the process, establishes real deadlines for CMS for claims processing, and enables businesses to meet CMS reporting requirements while maintaining data security. H.R. 1063 encourages efficiency by providing settling parties reimbursement amounts prior to settling a claim. The SMART Act will require CMS to advise parties in the process of settling, before settlement, of how much is owed, so that the parties can appropriately resolve their Medicare obligations. By requiring Medicare to provide the amount due within 65 days of a request, the settling parties will know how much money has to be set aside for Medicare, and factor that amount into their final settlement. H.R. 1063 increases Medicare’s efficiency by ensuring that the Government does not spend more money pursuing a MSP Claim then it will actually recover from that claim. The SMART Act will introduce a threshold, below which the provisions of MSP Act will not apply. And H.R. 1063 gives injured seniors finality for their settlements. H.R. 1063 establishes a three-year statute of limitations, allowing injured seniors to be able to settle claims confidently, without concern that they will be responsible for additional, substantial payments to Medicare sometime in the distant future.

That’s why H.R. 1063 is supported by the U.S. Chamber and trial lawyers. Companies as large as WalMart, Best Buy, Marriott International, and Disney, as well as many of the largest insurance companies in America, support H.R. 1063.

The Oversight Subcommittee of the House Energy & Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on these Medicare issues on Wednesday at 10 am. Among the witnesses will be officers from Publix Supermarkets and Cincinnati Insurance Company, which are among the many companies supporting H.R. 1063, and a plaintiffs’ attorney who will testify to the problems seniors face.