MEDICARE: Thomas to Offer BBA Restoration Plan This Week
Interests on all sides of the "give-back" debate continue to weigh in on the issue, exerting heavy pressure on House Ways and Means health subcommittee Chair Bill Thomas (R-CA) to move swiftly to restore funding cuts enacted as part of 1997's Balanced Budget Act (BBA). Claiming that "[n]ew survey results show that the BBA is causing significant reductions in family medicine residency programs," the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) Friday called "in written testimony ... for the inclusion of the Graduate Medical Education Technical Amendments Act of 1999, H.R. 1222, in any legislation designed to address problems resulting from the BBA" (AAFP release, 10/1). The Catholic Health Association of the United States voiced its support last Tuesday for Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison's (R-TX) American Hospital Preservation Act of 1999. In a letter thanking Hutchison for her "efforts on behalf of the hospital community," Rev. Michael Place, president and CEO of CHA, wrote, "[This act] would help remedy the current imbalance between actual costs and Medicare reimbursement, providing immediate relief to struggling hospitals" (CHA release, 9/28). Witnesses from the General Accounting Office and the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC), however, reiterated their earlier warnings that it is too soon to determine the full effects of the BBA, and Congress should move slowly in restoring cuts. "[W]e have no evidence that wholesale changes in the BBA are either necessary or desirable," MedPAC Chair Gail Wilensky told the committee Friday. Meanwhile, Senate Democrats Friday introduced the Medicare Beneficiary Access to Care Act which would funnel $20 billion over 10 years to "teaching and rural hospitals, nursing homes and home health agencies, among others," reports CongressDaily reports. Thomas said the package coming out of his committee will probably be "'somewhere between' the 7.5 billion proposed by President Clinton and the $20 billion proposed by Democrats," but was "noncommittal" about his exact plans (Rovner, 10/1).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.