House Republicans voted Thursday to make major cuts in Medicaid spending and let across-the-board Medicare cuts take effect as scheduled. In a party-line vote, the House passed a budget reconciliation measure that would cut healthcare programs to pay for defense spending.
Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced significant steps to reduce unnecessary, obsolete, or burdensome regulations on American hospitals and health care providers. These steps will help achieve the key goal of President Obama’s regulatory reform initiative to reduce unnecessary burdens on business and save nearly $1.1 billion across the health care system in the first year and more than $5 billion over five years.
CMS identified hospitals with the highest Medicare spending per beneficiary using data from the new Medicare spending per beneficiary efficiency measure that is now on the Hospital Compare website. Kaiser Health News analysis of Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services data.
From 2001 through 2010, Medicare payments for evaluation and management services increased by 48%, from $22.7 billion to $33.5 billion. This increase is attributed to their high vulnerability to fraud and abuse by physicians billing at higher levels, according to a report from the Office of Inspector General (pdf).
U.S. Reps. Allyson Schwartz (D-PA) and Joe Heck, D.O. (R-NV) introduced bipartisan legislation permanently repealing the “flawed Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR)” formula and setting out a clear path toward comprehensive reforms of Medicare payment and delivery systems.
HHS issued a proposed rule in which primary care physicians serving Medicaid patients would see their Medicaid payments rise to Medicare levels. Through the Affordable Care Act, the increase would bring Medicaid primary care service fees in line with those paid by Medicare. The boost would be in effect for calendar years (CY) 2013 and 2014. States would receive a total of more than $11 billion in new funds to bolster their Medicaid primary care delivery systems.
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced legislation that will extend two Medicare payment programs that are critical to rural hospitals in the North Country and across Upstate New York, and that are set to expire this year. The Medicare-Dependent Hospital Program provides support to nine hospitals in New York that treat a high number of Medicare patients, and allows greater financial stability in serving their communities. The Low Volume Hospital Program impacts 24 hospitals across New York, and provides Medicare support to hospitals that are very important to rural communities, though do not necessarily serve a high volume of patients.
The May issue of Health Affairs offers four detailed studies that look at different Medicare spending trends and the factors driving the variations.
Nevada’s Department of Health and Human Services said today that as many as 150,000 more residents will be eligible for Medicaid coverage if the federal health care law is found constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. Nevada was one of more than two dozen states to challenge the constitutionality of the new law.
Top-ranking Alabama state lawmakers are talking with Gov. Robert Bentley about ways to find more state money next year for Medicaid. At stake, according to state health officer Don Williamson, is the quality of Alabama’s entire system of health care and possibly the loss of billions of dollars in federal grants for Medicaid, which provides health care for about 900,000 lower-income and disabled Alabamians.