CHILDREN’S HOSPITALS: Senate Passes Relief Measure
The Senate approved a bill Wednesday night that clears the way for an overhaul of the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research. A House version passed in September. An amendment to the bill, also cleared by the House earlier this fall, earmarks $565 million over the next two years to help fund graduate medical education (GME) programs at children's hospitals (CongressDaily/A.M., 11/5). Children's hospitals need all the help they can get: Slammed by cuts from the 1997 Balanced Budget Act, they do not stand to benefit from the Medicare "giveback" bill. In a news release, the National Association of Children's Hospitals (NACH) explains, "Because independent children's hospitals don't serve the elderly, they are largely ineligible for Medicare -- the federal funding vehicle for GME. They receive just 1/200 of what they would receive ... if their patients were seniors instead of children. This shortfall hits particularly hard now that private sources of GME funding have all but dried up because of managed care and HMO cost-containment measures." Thus, under bipartisan leadership by Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and William Frist (R-TN), the Senate has agreed to provide a "two-year $285 million annual authorization" for GME programs at children's hospitals. NACH officials, however, fear that the bill could "easily be derailed" as Congress hurries to recess next week. To gather support, the NACH ran an ad in yesterday's Roll Call (NACH release, 11/3). Showing a baby walking and a caption that reads "Just One Step Away," it urges the public to "take the final step and join" congressional members "from both sides" as "time is running short for final passage and funding" of the Children's Hospitals GME Bill (NACH ad, 11/4).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.