Newspapers Examine Medicare Lobbying Efforts, Prescription Drug Benefit, Other Issues
Several newspapers on Tuesday published articles on Medicare. Summaries appear below.
The New York Times on Tuesday examined how the 2003 Medicare law "has touched off explosive growth in lobbying by the health care industry," which spends more on lobbying than any other sector. The Times reports that with "hundreds of billions of dollars at stake, health care providers, insurers, drug makers and pharmacies are continually trying to influence rules for the drug benefit and other initiatives authorized by the law," as new rules or guidelines on the law are issued "[a]lmost every week."
The Bush administration and congressional Republicans are particularly "receptive" to advice from the health care industry on regulations, the Times reports.
Last year, the health care industry spent $325 million to lobby Congress and federal agencies, according to Political Moneyline. Drug companies spent $86.9 million, hospitals spent $55 million and physicians spent $35.4 million on lobbying last year, according to the Times.
Health care lobbyist Carol McDaid said lobbying efforts have become "so sophisticated that, in preparation for a critical vote, a big health care or pharmaceutical company will hire a different firm to lobby each key member of an important committee, like the Ways and Means Committee."
Chris Jennings, formerly a health care adviser to President Clinton and currently a lobbyist, said, "The proliferation of health care lobbyists produces specialization. The broader good is often lost as people focus on next year's reimbursement rate for a specific group of health care providers or a regulation to be issued next month" (Pear, New York Times, 8/23).
The Akron Beacon Journal on Tuesday examined the "small, niche managed care plan" Evercare, operated by UnitedHealth Group, "that's targeted primarily to ailing seniors in long-term care facilities." Members of the plan, which is offered as part of the Medicare Advantage program, receive coverage for physician visits, outpatient services and regular visits by an advance-practice nurse.
Evercare CEO John Mach said the goal of the plan is to keep members healthier and reduce costs from hospital stays and emergency department visits.
A 2002 study by University of Minnesota researchers found that nursing home residents who were not enrolled in Evercare were twice as likely as plan members to be hospitalized. In addition, the study found that Evercare members and their families were more satisfied with their overall care than other nursing home residents (Powell , Akron Beacon Journal, 8/23).
American Medical Association officials and physician leaders on Tuesday in Ohio will launch the local portion of a national campaign to protest proposed cuts in Medicare physician payment rates, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. The proposed cuts would reduce physician payments by an average of 26% over six years, beginning with a 4.3% reduction on Jan. 1, 2006, according to the Enquirer (Bonfield, Cincinnati Enquirer, 8/23).
A recent AMA survey found that 38% of doctors nationwide would stop accepting new Medicare beneficiaries if the reductions take effect (Powell , Akron Beacon Journal, 8/23).
AMA plans to run a series of radio and newspaper advertisements urging Congress to reduce or eliminate the proposed rate cuts (Cincinnati Enquirer, 8/23).
HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt on Wednesday will visit Wichita, Kan., to talk about community resources available to seniors as they enroll in the new Medicare drug benefit (Bjerga, Wichita Eagle, 8/23).
Additional information on the Medicare drug benefit is available online.