House Ways and Means Panel Approves Medicare Reform Bill
The House Ways and Means Committee yesterday passed by voice vote legislation (HR 2768) that would reform the process that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services uses to hire contractors to process and pay Medicare claims, CongressDaily/AM reports. According to Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.), the bill would allow CMS to "competitively contract" with the "best entities available to process, make payments and answer questions" and offer the agency "the tools to manage Medicare program operations more efficiently." She added that the bill would establish "a more collaborative relationship between providers of health care and the CMS" and "streamline the regulatory process, enhance education and technical assistance for doctors and other health care providers and protect the rights of providers in the audit and recovery process to ensure that the repayment process is fair and open" (CongressDaily/AM, 10/12). The bill would "reduce the complex paperwork" that doctors and hospitals must file under Medicare and allow Medicare officials to issue "new or updated" regulations only one time per month (Houston Chronicle, 10/11). In addition, the legislation would offer providers "easier avenues" to appeal audits of their Medicare payments and allow providers 30 days to "come into compliance" with "substantive changes" in regulations. The bill also would allow providers five years, rather than three years, to repay overcharges. Providers could also delay "disputed repayments" until the "second level of external appeal is exhausted," rather than after the first level of review (American Health Line, 10/5). "This bill would streamline provider interactions with a complex bureaucracy and provide some certainty and sanity" in Medicare, House Ways and Means Committee Chair Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) said (Houston Chronicle, 10/11).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.