MEDICARE: Clinton Calls for Payment Boost
President Clinton will announce today his plans for a $21 billion boost, over the next five years, in Medicare payments to hospitals, nursing homes and other health care providers, the Wall Street Journal reports. According to a White House internal document, the proposal's goal is to ensure that Medicare and Medicaid payments "are adequate to ensure high-quality care" and that "[e]vidence in the last three years suggests that some of the policies [from the 1997 Balanced Budget Act] are ill-advised and have the potential to affect quality and access of health care services." Clinton's package includes a Medicare " lockbox" provision, as proposed earlier by Vice President Al Gore, which would prevent lawmakers from using program revenue for anything other than Medicare spending and debt reduction. Encouraged by the nation's booming economy, the administration estimates that there will be enough money to include a Medicare drug benefit to bolster provider payments and ensure solvency until 2030. Clinton's Medicare package would earmark $9 billion of the total $21 billion to "rescind or delay" policies that further cut provider payments beginning Oct. 1. For example, home health agencies face a 15% cut next year, but the new proposal would delay that cut for another year. The remaining $12 billion would be used for changes negotiated by Congress. Although Clinton's plan does not include provisions for managed care companies, the administration is expected to announce today that it will "work to revise and perhaps delay a new payment policy" for HMOs (McGinley, 6/19).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.