Topeka U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., health officials and patients Friday celebrated the override of President Bush's veto of a Medicare bill.
"It was the right thing to do for Kansas seniors, for military families and our health care providers," Roberts said.
On Tuesday, Congress overrode Bush's veto of legislation that was designed to prevent a 10.6 percent cut in doctors' reimbursement rates for treating Medicare patients.
Without congressional override of the veto, many doctors and hospitals said they would stop treating Medicare patients.
"We staved off a real disaster," Roberts said at a news conference at Stormont-Vail Healthcare.
Of the Kansas congressional delegation, every member voted to override Bush except U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, a Republican.
At the news conference, Roberts was backed up by the Kansas chapter of AARP, Kansas Hospital Association, Kansas Medical Society, Kansas Pharmacy Society, doctors and patients.
Mike Conlin, vice president of the Kansas Pharmacy Association, thanked Roberts for "helping right the ship on what was a terrible course."
Afterward, Roberts said expansion of health care coverage, including coverage for everyone, would be a major topic next year regardless of whether Republican John McCain or Democrat Barack Obama wins the presidential race.
"To go to universal health care is a giant step. I would hope that when we do that we would put patient choice, patient access, and a market oriented program, (in there) if we could.
"Whether or not we can do that I don't know, but I know it will be a frontburner issue," he said.
Roberts was criticized by Democrat Jim Slattery, who is seeking to unseat Roberts. Slattery, a former U.S. House member, called Roberts' vote to override Bush "an election-year vote."
Slattery's campaign pointed to a number of Roberts' votes that they said made prescription drugs for seniors more expensive and reduced access to treatment.
Included in that list was Roberts' opposition to allowing the federal government to negotiate with drug manufacturers for lower drug prices under Medicare.
But Roberts said if the federal government was allowed to set drug prices that were lower than "market forces," that would increase prescription costs for everyone else.