Senators Lobby To Add Other Health Measures to Medicare ‘Giveback’ Bill
Pressure to address Medicare provider rates and other related health measures is increasing as "giveback" legislation remains stalled in the Senate Finance Committee, CongressDaily/AM reports (Rovner/Fulton, CongressDaily/AM, 9/25). The package is expected to update payments for physicians, hospitals, nursing homes and managed care organizations. The proposal will reportedly include a provision authorizing competitive bidding for durable medical equipment, but likely will not include coverage for oral cancer drugs or self-injected medications, as previously considered (California Healthline, 9/24). Negotiations over the package are continuing this week, with the size of the plan as the focus of the dispute. While Republicans and the Bush administration support a package in the $10 billion to $15 billion range, Democrats have drafted a proposal that could cost as much as $45 billion over 10 years. CongressDaily/AM reports that there are questions on how to proceed with the package. Senators could attach the package to a fiscal year 2003 appropriations package or a continuing resolution. In another option, senators could pull the bill from the Finance Committee and place it directly on the floor, CongressDaily/AM reports.
As negotiations continue, interest groups and senators who want items included in the legislation are increasing pressure on the committee. For example, Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) wrote Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) urging him to include increased payments for Medicare+Choice plans in the package. Further, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) is working with Sen. John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), a member of the Finance Committee, to attach to the package an already approved provision that would provide states with additional Medicaid funds, CongressDaily/AM reports (CongressDaily/AM, 9/25). The provision, included in a generic drug bill (S 812) the Senate approved this summer, would give states $9 billion to help cover Medicaid costs (California Healthline, 8/1). In addition, Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) is attempting to reach a deal to add a Medicare prescription drug benefit to the package. Breaux said, "If we do a giveback bill without a prescription drug benefit, we will increase costs to seniors, which would be highly ironic." He added that increased Medicare provider spending "directly translates" into higher premiums for beneficiaries (CongressDaily/AM, 9/25). In addition, members of the American Health Care Association lobbied senators to prevent a scheduled 10% reduction in Medicare payments to nursing homes, which is set to take place Tuesday, the Des Moines Register reports (Norman, Des Moines Register, 9/25).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.