Understanding the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003

The Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 is a United States federal law which has been in existence since it was signed into effect by President George W. Bush. The MMA just barely managed to pass in Congress and began the biggest overhaul of Medicare in the 38-year history of the program. The MMA has brought about many updates and changes to Medicare and has an interesting history.

Legislative History of the MMA

The bill for the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 was first introduced to the House of Representatives in June 2003 with Speaker Dennis Hastert sponsoring. It was negotiated in Congress for about six months before finally passing, and it was saved from failing several times by last-minute switches in position from some senators and congressmen. The bill was revised and hotly debated for some time before a final vote was eventually reached and the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act was made law on December 8.

Major Changes of the MMA

The introduction of entitlement benefits for prescription drugs through subsidies and tax cuts was one of the biggest and most publicized changes that the MMA would bring about. The use of prescription drugs in United States health care has grown significantly since Medicare's 1965 institution, making the senior citizens at whom the program is directed hard-pressed to afford them. The MMA was meant to address that problem and also prohibits the federal government from negotiating with the drug companies for discounts, among other things.

Medicare Advantage Updates

Medicare patients had the option to receive benefits through a private insurance plan instead of Original Medicare after the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, but the Medicare Modernization Act changed this choice to a Medicare Advantage Plan. With these new plans, enrollees could sign on for an entire year. The health care services could be restricted to certain networks of providers, and non-emergency care services could be limited to a certain region. Federal reimbursement can also be adjusted, based on the calculated health risk of patients.

Other Changes and Updates

The main update of prescription drug benefits were agreed upon by nearly all while the Medicare Modernization Act was trying to pass, but the other provisions, though minor in comparison, were what caused most of the prolonged Congress debates. One change was the mandating of a six-city trial for a partially privatized Medicare, set to start in 2010. Higher fees from the more wealthy senior citizens were put into place, and an extra $25 billion of funding was allowed for rural hospitals at the request of rural western congressional reps.

The Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 is just one example of the updates and changes always being made in the United States to bring its citizens options that can help bring about a better and more fulfilling life. With senior citizens making up a vast number of the American population, a large health care program like Medicare needs to be examined constantly in order to stay relevant and as helpful as possible.

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