House Panel Passes Contractor, Medicare Audit Reform Bill
The House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health unaminously approved a bill (HR 2768) yesterday that would reform the process by which the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services hires contractors to process and pay Medicare claims and would make it easier for providers to "appeal audits of their Medicare payments," CongressDaily reports. A "substitute amendment" adopted by the committee "include[s] some changes sought by the Bush administration" which wants negligence standards to become "consistent with other laws," and providers to be given 30 days to come into compliance with "substantive changes" in regulations. The bill also would extend the period by which providers could repay overcharges from three years to five years. Providers could also delay "disputed repayments" until after the "second level of external appeal is exhausted," as opposed to the current requirement of repayment after the first level of review. "We cannot tolerate a system that continues to anger, frustrate and annoy providers at the rate this one does," Health Subcommittee Chair Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.) said (Rovner, CongressDaily, 10/4). According to a preliminary analysis by the Congressional Budget Office, the "Medicare Regulatory and Contract Reform Act of 2001" would not lead to any increased costs for the federal government (House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health release, 10/4).