Scully Predicts ‘Infusion of Cash’ for Medicare+Choice
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Thomas Scully yesterday predicted a "better than even chance" that lawmakers would provide Medicare managed care plans with an additional "infusion of cash" before Congress leaves for the year, CongressDaily reports. However, Scully, speaking to the American Association of Health Plans, "backed away from earlier predictions" that Congress would address "in a major way" a number of concerns that have prompted health plans to withdraw from the "troubled" Medicare+Choice program. He said that the FY 2002 budget "situation" and the "crush of other business" would make reforms a "tough call" for lawmakers. Scully also said that the Bush administration would "continue to push" the pharmacy discount card program that President Bush unveiled in July, despite a September court ruling that temporarily has blocked the program. "We are very, very committed to getting this program in place," he said, adding, "Getting seniors buying drugs in bulk to get discounts is the one common denominator" among Democrats and Republicans.
Scully also said that CMS will "soon" issue a regulation to "further restrict" the Medicaid "upper payment limit" or loophole (Rovner, CongressDaily/AM, 10/15). Under the loophole, states pay city- or county-owned health care facilities more than the actual cost of health services, receive additional federal matching funds from CMS and require the facilities to return the additional state funds. States may pay the facilities a small fee for their participation and use the funds to cover health- or non-health-related costs (California Healthline, 1/4). "It's a scam," Scully said. According to Scully, the Bush administration has "no desire to pull the rug out from under states that are relying" on funds from the loophole to cover the cost of health care for low-income residents, but will not allow additional states to begin using the loophole. "We just have to draw the line," he said, adding, "We can't let every state come in and refinance their entire state government through the Medicaid program" (CongressDaily, 10/15).