The House Appropriations Committee last week urged HHS' inspector general's office to suspend its controversial search for fraudulent Medicare billing by physicians at teaching hospitals.
The request is contained in the committee's HHS spending legislation. It does not order a suspension of the investigation, known as Physicians at Teaching Hospitals, or PATH. Instead, the legislation says a suspension would be "prudent" until the General Accounting Office, Congress' investigative arm, examines the fairness of the audits.
Rep. William Thomas (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Ways and Means health subcommittee, asked for a GAO report on the PATH audits in a letter earlier this month.
Thomas advised the GAO to consider whether HCFA's regulations on physician billings were clear, what role Medicare carriers played in the controversy, and whether the investigation reflects HCFA's failure to keep a lid on Medicare payments.
The spending legislation passed the 60-member Appropriations Committee last week, but at press time it had not been scheduled for a vote by the full House.
Meanwhile, the Senate passed legislation giving the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs a healthcare budget of slightly more than $17 billion for fiscal 1998, which begins Oct. 1.