Extension Sought on Specialty Hospital Moratorium
Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and ranking member Max Baucus (D-Mont.) in an July 28 press release asked CMS to extend until Oct. 8 a moratorium on the approval of new specialty hospitals because of alleged problems with information in a recent survey, CQ HealthBeat reports (Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 7/31).
The 2003 Medicare law included an 18-month moratorium that expired in June 2005, but CMS officials determined that the agency had the authority to extend the moratorium until Feb. 15. In addition, the fiscal year 2006 budget reconciliation bill enacted in February included a six-month moratorium and required CMS to develop a plan on regulation of specialty hospitals (California Healthline, 5/19). CMS must release a final version of the plan by Aug. 8, at which time the agency could end the moratorium.
As part of the effort to develop the plan, CMS in May sent a survey to 130 specialty hospitals and 285 rival facilities to determine the effect of specialty hospitals on community facilities.
However, CMS sent the survey to at least five rival hospitals in states that prohibit specialty facilities, and "numerous hospitals that should be considered 'competitor' hospitals were not surveyed," according to the senators.
Grassley said, "If the survey's no good, or it's skewed in any way, then it's hard to argue that the resulting plan will be any good."
CMS spokesperson Ellen Griffith-Cohen declined to comment on the press release until the agency issues a formal response (CQ HealthBeat, 7/31).