Congressmember Lois Capps inserted a measure into the Children’s Health and Medicare Protection Act just passed by Congress that increase what Santa Barbara doctors treating Medicare patients get reimbursed by the federal government. Santa Barbara has long been classified as a “rural” county for the purpose of defining such reimbursements, and Capps changed that designation to “urban,” to better reflect the actual costs of living and of providing medical care. The difference is hardly one of semantics: Santa Barbara health care professionals have been refusing to accept Medicare patients because of low reimbursements in increasing numbers for several years. But President George Bush has vowed to veto the bill-assuming it gets past the Senate intact-because it greatly expands the number of presently uninsured children covered by the federal government.
In Santa Barbara County, the current program covers 9,250 children even though nearly twice that number are eligible and not covered. Under the bill’s renewal and expansion that number would be increased by 11,500. Nationwide, the numbers would jump from six million to 11 million. Bush maintains the costs are prohibitive and that the proposed measure grants free coverage to families that can afford to buy their own.