The Senate last week authorized a demonstration project that would allow some Medicare-eligible military retirees to join the Defense Department's Tricare managed-care plan.
The project, passed as an amendment to a Senate bill that authorizes spending for Defense Department programs in fiscal 1997, would require HCFA and the Pentagon by Sept. 6 to send a report describing the demonstration project to President Clinton and Congress. The complete, amended bill is expected to face a Senate vote this week.
The project would require HCFA to reimburse the Defense Department on a capitated basis for Tricare enrollees over the age of 65. The amendment authorizes $75 million to pay for the program if it's enacted by the time Congress adjourns this fall.
Under the amendment, the two agencies also would be required to report by Jan. 3, 1997, on the feasibility of allowing Medicare to reimburse the military for Medicare-eligible retirees who enroll in a Tricare fee-for-service option.
Medicare-eligible military retirees currently cannot enroll in the Tricare managed-care program, which covers under-65 retirees and family members of active-duty members in 14 states. They can receive care at military healthcare facilities when space is available, although HCFA cannot reimburse those facilities for that care.
Meanwhile, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed a defense spending bill for fiscal 1997 that would fund military healthcare programs at $9.9 billion, up $32.7 million from the current year. Fiscal 1997 begins Oct. 1.
In the House, a spending bill passed that would increase funding for the Indian Health Service by 1.8% in fiscal 1997, to just under $1.8 billion.
The House Appropriations Committee bogged down in its consideration of a bill that would reduce fraud-control payments to Medicare contractors by nearly $400 million, decreasing HHS' payments to Medicare carriers and intermediaries to $1.2 billion in fiscal 1997.
Those contractor payments are expected to be made up under appropriations in health insurance reform legislation that passed the House in March.