Lawmakers Unveil Rural Health Care Reform Bill To Address Differences in Medicare Provider Reimbursements
In a news conference yesterday, more than two dozen senators and 176 representatives advocated legislation (S 816 and HR 1675) that would address so-called geographic differences in Medicare provider payments, CongressDaily reports. Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), one of the Senate bill's lead sponsors, said that Medicare often pays rural hospitals half of what it gives urban facilities for providing the same services (CongressDaily, 4/8). Medicare provider reimbursements are based in part on local wages and costs (California Healthline, 4/2). However, some lawmakers say that formula is outdated, noting that hospitals compete for the same doctors and nurses and pay the same for supplies and equipment, the AP/Grand Forks Herald reports (Sullivan, AP/Grand Forks Herald, 4/8). The legislation, which is expected to cost $17 billion to $19 billion over 10 years, would equalize the standard Medicare payment for rural and urban areas. It also would make special payments to rural hospitals serving fewer than 2,000 patients annually; allow wage adjustments for facilities that compete with nearby urban facilities; remove limits on financial help to rural hospitals serving a large share of uninsured patients; and provide loans and grants for building repairs and medical equipment. Conrad said he hoped that the cost of the payment bill could be included in funding set aside for Medicare reform in both the Senate and House versions of the fiscal year 2004 budget resolution. Conrad and other senators said the Senate bill has the support of Senate Finance Committee Chair Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and "much, if not a majority" of the rest of the committee, CongressDaily reports (CongressDaily, 4/8).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.