House Committee Approves Medicare Administrative Reform Bill
The House Ways and Means Committee yesterday voted 19-13 along party lines to approve a bill (HR 810) that would streamline some administrative operations in Medicare but would not make fundamental revisions to the structure or benefits of the program, CongressDaily/AM reports (Rovner, CongressDaily/AM, 4/3). The "Medicare Regulatory and Contracting Reform Act," which passed the House Energy and Commerce Committee on March 26, would:
- Require Medicare contractors to issue a written response to written inquiries from beneficiaries or providers within 45 days;
- Establish a new beneficiary ombudsman;
- Place Medicare specialists in certain Social Security Administration offices to provide advice to beneficiaries;
- Establish a task force to review regulations related to requirements that hospital emergency rooms screen and stabilize patients;
- Transfer some administrative law judges who adjudicate Medicare benefits appeals from SSA to HHS; and
- Specify that administrative law judges must be independent of CMS and cannot be controlled by the agency (California Healthline, 3/27).
The bill unanimously passed the House in the 107th Congress and has had bipartisan support this year, but two amendments proposed yesterday by Republicans "outrag[ed]" Democrats and prompted them to vote against the legislation, CongressDaily/AM reports (CongressDaily/AM, 4/3). Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.) introduced an amendment that would allow home health care agencies to suspend for 18 months the collection of data about patients who do not qualify for Medicare or Medicaid. The amendment passed on a 21-13 vote along party lines (CongressDaily, 4/2). A second amendment, introduced by Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), would allow nursing homes that receive civil fines for violations of federal standards to continue to operate nurse aide training programs. Under current law, nursing homes that receive fines of more than $5,000 must suspend the programs for two years. The amendment passed on a 19-13 vote along party lines (CongressDaily/AM, 4/3). 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.