MEDICARE: House Reps. Point Finger at HCFA
Continuing the bombardment of the Medicare system by nearly everyone, House Republicans yesterday pointed fingers at HCFA officials, charging that they purposely misinterpreted language in the 1997 Budget Balanced Act "in the most austere way," resulting in deeper Medicare cuts than legislators had intended. Rep. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said, "They're creating a crisis on purpose," adding, that HCFA is not only ""nickel and diming our doctors and hospitals and nursing homes,' but it is reducing payments to private managed care plans participating in the Medicare+Choice program 'to make sure it doesn't succeed.'" HCFA officials claim that they simply responded to the "specific legislative language of the 1997 law" in making cuts and that "in most cases, their hands have been tied," CongressDaily reports. Medicare officials plan to meet next week with members of the House Commerce health and environment subcommittee to "work out which of the current payment problems can be addressed administratively and which need to be fixed through legislation" (Morrissey/Rovner, 9/23).
In the Real World: Rural Consequences
As Medicare officials and House members duke it out on Capitol Hill, an editorial in the Billings Gazette yesterday argues that the cuts by HCFA have hit rural hospitals particularly hard, since many smaller "hospitals and health centers do 70% of their business with seniors" on Medicare. Recent reductions in Medicare payments to hospitals have many small health care facilities "reeling," the editorial asserts, adding that "[h]ospitals that were operating carefully and staying in the black have reported alarming revenue shortfalls as expenses have increased in the past year." The editorial concludes, "Medicare shouldn't be the death of rural hospitals" (9/23).