Congress Unsure of How to Move ‘Medicare Giveback’ Bill
Health care providers are "increasingly" concerned that Medicare cuts imposed by the 1997 Balanced Budget Act will not be restored before Congress adjourns for the year, and members of Congress seem "no closer" to deciding whether to move the Medicare giveback package forward as part of a larger tax relief bill or separate it, CongressDaily reports. House Ways and Means health subcommittee Chair Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) said that he has "no intention" of removing the Medicare plan from the tax bill or attaching it to the FY 2001 Labor-HHS appropriations bill, CongressDaily reports. He also opposes changes sought by the White House in the Medicare bill. Still, Thomas "would not rule out making modest adjustments to the Medicare giveback plan." He said, "I'm not saying you can not ever open this, you just can't start with a clean sheet of paper."
On the other side of the debate, Senate Banking Committee Chair Phil Gramm (R-Texas) told reporters Tuesday that the Medicare package could be pulled out of the tax bill and passed separately. Adding to the debate, a "diverse group" of hospitals, managed care organizations, health insurers, a medical technology association and a nursing home representative sent congressional members a letter on Monday urging them to pass the Medicare package this year. They wrote, "This legislation is imperative to our ability to ensure continuity of care to the more than 39 million Medicare beneficiaries, and 45 million Medicaid beneficiaries" (Fulton/Norton, CongressDaily, 11/15).