MEDICARE GIVEBACKS: Limited Restoration Planned
Although Congress plans to provide additional Medicare givebacks to hospitals, nursing homes and managed care plans, the restoration funds are likely to be less than what they want, CongressDaily/A.M. reports. House Ways and Means health subcommittee Chair Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) said yesterday that lawmakers are "willing to consider limited changes" to the Balanced Budget Act, but cautioned that the funding restorations from the 1999 Balanced Budget Refinement Act, which have yet to kick in, will also be factored in to any new payment schedule that is created. According to a General Accounting Office study of 51 hospitals, Medicare payments were 9% higher than program costs, while managed care reimbursements were only 7% more than costs. Subcommittee ranking member Pete Stark (D-Calif.) said lawmakers should be cautious with reimbursements, asking, "If we pay hospitals more with taxpayer dollars from Medicare, will they just keep signing below-cost contracts with managed care plans?" Despite Stark's concerns, a bipartisan, bicameral movement is brewing for further financial relief for health providers. House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) announced that "BBA addbacks" are on his priority agenda list for September, and Senate Democrats met yesterday afternoon to begin drafting their own proposal. Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) teamed up with House Government Reform ranking member Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and House Commerce health and environment subcommittee ranking member Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) to introduce a nursing home bill that would reinstate the Boren amendment, requiring states to make "reasonable and adequate" payments to nursing homes, in addition to other provisions (Rovner, 7/26).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.