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House Approves Measure to Improve Medicare

On June 24, the House passed, 355-59, the Medicare Improvement for Patients and Providers Act (H.R. 6331). The bill would amend the Social Security Act to extend expiring provisions under the Medicare Program, improve beneficiary access to preventive and mental health services, enhance low-income benefit programs, and maintain access to care, including pharmacy access, in rural areas.

The measure also would extend until the third quarter of FY2009, the Transitional Medical Assistance (TMA) and abstinence education programs. The TMA (P.L. 109-432) provides continued medical coverage for families that become ineligible for Medicaid because of increased earnings or child support payments. Extended coverage is provided for up to 12 months for families with increased earnings up to 185 percent of the federal poverty line; families with increased earnings from child support payments are eligible for up to four months of extended coverage.

The abstinence education program was established by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-193) and was last reauthorized in 2006 (P.L. 109-432). The program authorizes $50 million annually for grants to states to create or augment existing abstinence-only education programs for unmarried teenagers and adults.

H.R. 6331 also includes a provision that would establish a Medicare accreditation requirement for suppliers of advanced diagnostic imaging services, beginning January 1, 2012. The secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, by January 1, 2010, would designate organizations to accredit suppliers, and establish a criterion for accreditation.

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