RURAL HEALTH: Measure Would Ease BBA Medicare Cuts
In the wake of yesterday's Congressional Budget Office report stating that the 1997 Balanced Budget Act may have exceeded its goals in limiting Medicare spending, a bipartisan group of Senators is slated today to introduce legislation that would ease the BBA's impact on rural hospitals. The Promoting Health in Rural Areas Act of 1999, sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) and seven other lawmakers, would "raise payments for rural hospitals by making it easier for them to qualify for special designations," and sweeten the managed care rate-setting formula in an attempt to attract more HMOs to rural areas. In addition, the law would increase rural MedPAC representation; boost rural access to mental health services by broadening the array of Medicare-covered providers; increase Medicare payment rates for health clinics, nurse practitioners and physician assistants in rural areas; and "expand the range of services that can be provided with Medicare reimbursement via 'telemedicine.'" The sponsors of the bill have long been focused on rural health issues: Sens. Max Baucus (D-MT), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Craig Thomas (R-WY), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Bill Frist (R-TN) and Pat Roberts (R-KS). The sponsors "hope the measure can be attached to another Medicare bill, and Baucus aides noted that legislation Congress must pass to make already promised Medicare changes to the BBA 'would be the logical vehicle.'" In the meantime, Sens. William Roth (R-DE) and Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) have introduced their own measure to modify the Medicare+Choice program, CongressDaily reports (Rovner, 5/5).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.