Lawmakers Could Add Health Spending Measures to Senate Medicare ‘Giveback’ Bill
Congressional members and aides expect that a variety of health care funding measures will be added to a package that the Senate Finance Committee is working on to boost payments to Medicare providers, CongressDaily/AM reports (Rovner/Fulton, CongressDaily/AM, 9/13). The Senate legislation is expected to be similar to a bill (HR 4954) the House passed in June that would provide approximately $14 billion to hospitals, including $9 billion to rural facilities over 10 years, and would reverse scheduled cuts in payments to physicians and home health care providers. In addition, it would allocate $3 billion to insurers that offer Medicare+Choice plans (California Healthline, 9/10). The House package would allocate about $30 billion overall for hospitals, physicians and other providers, while the Senate package would include $40 billion over 10 years (Calmes, Wall Street Journal, 9/13). Some senators hope to include a Medicare prescription drug benefit in the plan, as the House bill does, but the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations wrote in a letter to senators last week that even if the Senate approves a drug benefit, it will offer little in terms of "beneficiary protections and improvements." The letter continued, "At minimum, the Senate should spend as much on beneficiary protections and improvements as on provider payment increases." The group has suggested that in lieu of a full drug benefit, senators include in the Medicare package coverage of self-injected drugs and oral medications for cancer and tests to detect cholesterol, hypertension and osteoporosis; a tax credit to cover long-term care costs; and continuation of a program scheduled to expire that assists low-income Medicare beneficiaries with their Part B premiums.
CongressDaily/AM reports that the Finance Committee also might add a provision to the package that would temporarily increase Medicaid payments to states. Senators also are considering adding the Family Opportunity Act (S 321), which would allow families with disabled children who normally do not qualify for Medicaid benefits to receive coverage, CongressDaily/AM reports. The Senate Finance Committee approved the bill in July, but it has not been scheduled for floor action. The measure has stalled in the House Energy and Commerce Committee (CongressDaily/AM, 9/13).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.