Senate Medicare private contracting bill introduced

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted June 13, 2011

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Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R, Alaska) has introduced legislation that would allow doctors and patients to agree to their own fees for physician services without having to give up Medicare payments.

The Medicare Patient Empowerment Act, introduced on May 23, is the companion piece to a House measure introduced earlier in May. Both bills would give patients and doctors the right to negotiate fees for non-emergent care.

"At the age when many Americans begin to need extra medical attention, the current Medicare system puts hurdles in their path to care," Murkowski said. "Now more than ever, with the added scrutiny Medicare is getting, our seniors need solutions and certainty."

The Alaska State Medical Assn. supports the legislation because it puts control over prices in the patients' hands and preserves the doctor-patient relationship, the association said in a statement. Democratic opponents on Capitol Hill insist it will drive up out-of-pocket costs for vulnerable beneficiaries.

The Murkowski bill had one co-sponsor, Sen. Jim DeMint (R, S.C.), at this article's deadline. The House legislation, sponsored by Rep. Tom Price, MD (R, Ga.), had 12 co-sponsors.

Note: This item originally appeared at

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