Medicare Payment Advisory Commission Payment Recommendations ‘Outrage’ Providers
Recommendations by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission that most health providers in the Medicare program not receive a pay increase next year "touched off a round of outrage" yesterday during a House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee hearing, CongressDaily/AM reports. MedPAC on Monday recommended a 0.4% reduction in reimbursement increases for hospital inpatient care and a 0.9% reduction in increases for outpatient services. The commission recommended no reimbursement changes for home health agencies and nursing homes (Rovner, CongressDaily/AM, 3/7). MedPAC also recommended no change for ambulatory surgical centers (MedPAC release, 3/3). MedPAC Chair Glenn Hackbarth said that Medicare payments are generally "adequate to cover the costs of efficient providers." Speaking on behalf of the American Hospital Association, Dennis Barry of North Carolina's Moses Cone Health System said that the cuts "would jeopardize hospitals' ability to care for their communities," adding, "For the majority of America's hospitals, Medicare is already not paying adequately, and these rates would exacerbate the situation." Mary Ousley of the American Health Care Association, a trade group for nursing homes, said, "The reality is that quality care cannot be provided for less than cost."
Hackbarth said that nursing homes are facing financial difficulties because Medicaid, not Medicare, is underpaying them. AARP board member Betty Severyn supported MedPAC's position, saying that Medicare beneficiaries pay more when provider rates are higher. She added, "While we want providers to be paid fairly, we also believe it would be inappropriate to use limited federal dollars to increase provider payments without first ensuring that older and disabled Americans get the drug coverage they need" (CongressDaily/AM, 3/7). MedPAC's report is available online. In addition, Hackbarth's testimony is available online. Note: You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the report and the testimony.
In other Medicare news, several current and former lawmakers yesterday said that Medicare will be in "perilous financial shape" in the coming years if Congress adds a prescription drug benefit without "fundamentally changing the program," CongressDaily reports. During a forum sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.) said that Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security will make up more than 50% of the federal budget in 10 years and that adding a prescription drug benefit to Medicare without significant changes to the program will "just make the scenario worse." Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.), chair of the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, said, "We have to bend the cost curve as the baby boomers retire." Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) also "ma[de] the case for fundamental change," CongressDaily reports, and both said they are optimistic about the chances of passing a Medicare overhaul bill this year. Breaux added, however, that the odds of that happening are slightly "better than 50-50" (Rovner, CongressDaily, 3/6).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.