President Bush Signs Bill With Medicare Physician Reimbursement, HSA Provisions
President Bush on Wednesday signed into law a tax, trade and health care bill (HR 6111) that includes provisions to reverse a 5.1% reduction in Medicare physician reimbursements scheduled for 2007 and to allow increased contributions to health savings accounts, CQ Today reports (Van Dongen, CQ Today, 12/20). The law maintains the current level of Medicare physician reimbursements in 2007 and provides a 1.5% increase in reimbursements to physicians who agree to report data on certain quality-of-care measures.
In addition, the law eliminates a requirement that annual contributions to HSAs not exceed the amount of the annual deductibles for the health plans to which they are linked. The law will increase the maximum annual contribution to HSAs to $2,850 for individuals and $5,650 for families (California Healthline, 12/11).
Bush said, "This is a good piece of pro-growth legislation," adding, "With all these steps, we're working to improve the health and prosperity of the American people and to keep our economy growing" (CQ Today, 12/20).
In related news, the Los Angeles Times on Thursday examined a provision in the law that provides a 1.6% increase in Medicare dialysis provider reimbursements. According to the Times, dialysis providers were "among many special interests benefiting from a piece of legislation that was designed to simply extend existing tax cuts and credits -- but ended up freighted with billions of dollars in new spending earmarks for ... various other interests."
The provision will cost $400 million over five years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Lawmakers led by House Ways and Means Committee Chair Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) added the provision to the law during "a secret middle-of-the-night meeting in the waning hours of the session on Dec. 7," the Times reports. Thomas received $84,250 in donations from DaVita, a large dialysis provider, during the last campaign cycle, and his former chief of staff, Cathy Abernathy, serves as a lobbyist for the company.
House Ways and Means Committee spokesperson Rob Vanden Heuvel said, "Bill Thomas makes policy decisions based on the merits of policy, not on campaign contributions."
However, Sara Rosenbaum, a professor of health law and policy at George Washington University, said that lawmakers added the provision "not because dialysis patients have the most meritorious case" but because lobbyists for dialysis providers are "effective on Capitol Hill" (Hamburger/Roche, Los Angeles Times, 12/21).