MEDICARE CUTS: Moynihan, Roth Roll Out Their Solution
Senate Finance Committee Chair William Roth (R-DE) and ranking member Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) unveiled legislation Tuesday that would restore between $10 billion and $15 billion in 1997 Balanced Budget Act cuts to Medicare, CongressDaily reports. The plan has yet to receive endorsements from other committee members, who are awaiting final cost estimates and "details on how to pay for such a large package," which would return funding to a number of sectors in the health care industry, including nursing homes, hospital outpatient centers, home health care services, teaching hospitals and managed care plans. Although White House officials had not yet seen the proposal, they stressed that "whatever the cost of the package, it must be offset, but not with other cuts in the Medicare trust fund." Below are highlights of the bill, which aides expect to go to markup in the next two weeks:
- Adjust payment schedules for the sickest patients with more expensive medical costs at skilled nursing facilities and hospices.
- Protect cancer centers and rural hospitals from the impact of the new Medicare reimbursement and outpatient systems, while limiting reductions in outpatient payments to other hospitals through newly established floors and allowing some urban hospitals to be treated as rural.
- Stabilize payment rates for physicians.
- Postpone the upcoming 15% payment reduction for home health services until the prospective payment system is implemented and then phase in payment cuts over three years.
- Freeze the Indirect Medical Education payment adjustment factor for teaching hospitals at 6.5% for FY 2000 through FY 2003.
- Reduce the impact of cuts on managed care plans by establishing "payment 'risk adjustment' during a longer period" (Morrissey, 10/13).
Thomas to Toss His Medicare Bill in Ring
Meanwhile, House Ways and Means health subcommittee Chair Bill Thomas (R-CA) will offer up his own proposal today to restore Medicare cuts. Thomas said, "Two years ago, Congress made the difficult but right decision in passing the BBA. Today, we are building on that success by making those changes necessitated by the administration's failure to adjust the year 2000 problems and the fact that the changes made in 1997 were the most significant since the passage of the Medicare Act in 1965" (Ways and Means release, 10/12).