Medicare Provider ‘Giveback’ Legislation Unlikely To Pass Before Adjournment
As Senate leaders thus far have been unable to reach an agreement on a Medicare provider "giveback" package, it is unlikely the bill will pass before Congress recesses and it might not pass at all, CongressDaily/AM reports (Rovner/Fulton, CongressDaily/AM, 10/9). Sponsored by Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), the 10-year, $43 billion bill includes smaller than planned reimbursement reductions for hospitals and increases for rural physicians, hospitals and home health care agencies. Medicare+Choice plans would receive a 4% reimbursement increase in 2003 and 3% increase in 2004 under the legislation. The bill also would reverse the expiration of $1.7 billion in temporary Medicare reimbursements for nursing homes that ended Oct. 1. In addition, the legislation would expand a pilot program that uses competitive bidding for durable medical equipment nationwide. The bill also includes a provision that would allow Medicare to cover immunosuppressive treatments for organ transplants and would renew a five-year program that helps low-income seniors cover the cost of Medicare premiums. The legislation includes a two-year delay of reimbursement caps for physical and occupational therapy and would expand coverage of cholesterol and lipid level tests. The bill also includes additional funds for state Medicaid and CHIP programs (California Healthline, 10/7). While Daschle said the bill is on his "to-do" list, he also said the package had a 50-50 chance of passing (CongressDaily/AM, 10/9). For his part, Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) said he was "still hoping and planning" to pass a giveback package before the elections. Congress likely will adjourn before Nov. 5 to allow members to campaign, Bloomberg/Tennessean reports (Snider, Bloomberg/Tennessean, 10/9).
Meanwhile, CMS Administrator Tom Scully, speaking at a briefing by the American Association of Health Plans, said, "If I had to guess right now, I'd guess there won't be any giveback bill" (Bloomberg/Tennessean, 10/9). "I just don't see the energy right now that I would expect to see ... in the last days of the legislative session," he added (CQ Daily Monitor Midday Update, 10/8). CongressDaily reports that Scully said it "would be fine with the Bush administration" if Congress does not pass the package this year. However, the administration is seeking some "key changes" (CongressDaily, 10/8). Instead of the Senate's package, Scully suggested that Congress pass a "bare-bones" bill, which only would cancel a scheduled 4.4% cut in physicians' fees and allow states to retain $2.8 billion in unspent CHIP funds. He added that although the administration may consider other provisions, a bill the administration would accept "could not be much larger" than the two proposals he mentioned, CongressDaily/AM reports. "A modest bill that doesn't go overboard -- fine. But if this thing gets bloated, it will be dead," Scully said. Daschle, however, said that Senate Democrats would insist that the package include increased federal matching funds for Medicaid programs (CongressDaily/AM, 10/9).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.