Congress Unsure of How to Move Medicare ‘Givebacks’ Bill
Health care providers are "increasingly" concerned that Medicare cuts imposed by the 1997 Balanced Budget Act will not be restored before Congress adjourns for the year, and members of Congress seem "no closer" to deciding whether to move the Medicare "giveback" package forward as part of a larger tax relief bill or to separate it, CongressDaily reports. House Ways and Means health subcommittee Chair Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) said that he has "no intention" of removing the Medicare plan from the tax bill or attaching it to the fiscal year 2001 Labor-HHS appropriations bill, CongressDaily reports. He also opposes changes to the bill sought by the White House, which has argued that the measure provides too much money to HMOs. Still, Thomas "would not rule out making modest adjustments to the Medicare giveback plan." He said, "I'm not saying you cannot ever open this, you just can't start with a clean sheet of paper." Senate Banking Committee Chair Phil Gramm (R-Texas), however, told reporters Nov. 14 that the Medicare package could be pulled out of the tax bill and passed separately. Adding to the debate, a "diverse group" of hospitals, managed care organizations, health insurers, a medical technology association and a nursing home representative sent congressional members a letter on Nov. 13 urging them to pass the Medicare package this year. They state in the letter, "This legislation is imperative to our ability to ensure continuity of care to the more than 39 million Medicare beneficiaries, and 45 million Medicaid beneficiaries" (Fulton/Norton, CongressDaily, 11/15).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.