MEDICARE II: HCFA, GAO Denounce Plan for Program Overhaul
Federal officials yesterday expressed their disapproval of a plan to overhaul the Medicare payment system, CongressDaily/A.M. reports. Testifying at a House Government Reform subcommittee hearing, officials from HCFA and the General Accounting Office warned that a drastic move to reshape Medicare would "increase chances for fraud, compromise medical confidentiality and increase costs and confusion for patients and providers." HCFA's Chief Information Officer Gary Christoph said, "The mechanisms and means [of reform] raise some concerns about potential program integrity problems and other serious unintended consequences that we need to understand." The plan, introduced by subcommittee Chair Stephen Horn (R-Calif.), would establish a new division in HHS, called the Health Care Infrastructure Commission. The commission would design and implement a system allowing providers to access immediately information on claims and make electronic payments. Senate Agriculture Chair Dick Lugar (R-Ind.), a supporter of the bill, said the legislation would allow doctors to spend more time with patients, help insurers process claims faster, and offer consumers a "more timely understanding of treatment and costs." It would also remove the mandatory 13-day waiting period between HCFA receipt of a claim and payment. But HCFA officials cautioned that such a move would increase the risk of fraudulent claims. "Identifying these errors before payment is made is far more cost-effective than the 'pay and chase' approach that the system in (the bill) would require," Christoph said. Officials from HCFA and the GAO added that a complete overhaul was unnecessary, contending that "less drastic measures could more effectively improve the system" (Fulton, 7/12).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.