Date: July 10, 2008
Senate Passes H.R. 6331, the
“Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008”
On July 9, 2008, the Senate passed H.R. 6331, the “Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008,” by unanimous consent. Earlier in the day, a cloture vote passed by 69-30, which cleared the way for final approval. The bill is identical to the bill that passed the House on June 24, 2008. The President has indicated that he will veto the bill. However, the margin of the votes in the House and the Senate has been characterized as “veto proof.”
A general description of the bill may be found in Legislative Bulletin 110-29.
H.R. 6331 contains the following provisions of interest to SSA:
Eliminating Barriers to Medicare Savings Programs Enrollment
• Requires SSA to provide applicants for Medicare Part D Low-Income Subsidy (LIS) with information about Medicare Savings Programs (MSP) assistance, including information about how to contact the State health insurance assistance program (SHIP).
• Requires SSA (with the consent of those filing) to transmit LIS application data to the States. Once received, the LIS data would serve as a protective filing for MSP, with State agencies being required to complete appropriate MSP development and make eligibility determinations. The content, form, and manner in which information (on a uniform basis for all States) shall be transmitted would be determined by the Commissioner, in consultation with HHS and the States. Effective January 1, 2010.
• Requires SSA to provide MSP training to employees currently involved in LIS application-taking, so that those employees can promote beneficiary awareness of MSP, thereby increasing MSP participation.
• Provides start-up funding of $24.1 million to SSA for activities related to MSP outreach and transmittal of data to states. Funds would be appropriated as of October 1, 2008, and remain available until expended. Ongoing funding for MSP-related activities would be provided, beginning with fiscal year 2011, through a separate ongoing appropriation of $3 million annually to HHS. HHS would provide this funding to SSA via a reimbursable agreement, and the funds would only be available to HHS for this specific purpose.
• Provides funding of $24.8 million to SSA for LIS activities required due to changes in MSP and LIS programs. Funds would be appropriated as of October 1, 2008, and remain available until expended.
Exemption From Income and Resources for Determination of Eligibility for Low-Income Subsidy
• Eliminates counting in-kind support and maintenance as income and life insurance as a resource for LIS purposes. Effective for applications filed on or after January 1, 2010.
Judicial Review of Decisions of the Commissioner of Social Security Under the Low-Income Subsidy Program
• Codifies SSA's existing policy that denied LIS applicants can appeal to the civil courts, once the administrative appeals process is exhausted. Effective as if enacted with the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003.
Translation of Standardized Medicare Savings Programs Application
• Requires HHS to translate their model MSP application into at least the 10 languages (other than English) most often used by Medicare applicants, and to make the translated forms available at Social Security offices. Effective January 1, 2010.
OTHER PROVISIONS OF INTEREST:
• Extends the Qualifying Individual (QI) program through December 2009 (QI is one of the Medicare Savings Programs). Additional funding of $200 million would be provided through December 2008, with an additional $500 million for 2009.
• Applies the LIS standard resources test ($6,290 for an individual/$9,440 for a couple in 2008) to MSP. Effective January 1, 2010.
• Eliminates Part D late enrollment penalties for individuals who are eligible for LIS. Effective January 1, 2009.
• Clarifies that, in the event of a recipient's death, the State is not allowed to attempt recovery (through the recipient's estate) of costs associated with providing MSP assistance. Effective January 1, 2010.