Senate Democrats last week introduced a Medicare relief package that would funnel $20 billion in new payments to healthcare providers during the next decade.
The Democratic bill would roll back payment provisions in the Balanced Budget Act of 1997.
When the budget law was enacted, the Congressional Budget Office estimated it would save $112 billion between 1998 and 2002, but estimates of savings have increased by $95 billion.
The package would:
* Provide a three-year transition into a prospective payment system for hospital outpatient departments.
* Ease payment reductions for teaching hospitals and those serving a disproportionate share of poor people.
* Reduce cuts for rural hospitals.
"We made some miscalculations in 1997, and there should be no delay in fixing them," said Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.).
The Senate Democrats' package came a week after Senate Finance Committee Chairman William Roth (R-Del.) made public a letter to Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) seeking between $1 billion and $1.5 billion in new Medicare spending in 2000.
The introduction of the Senate Democrats' package comes as the House Ways and Means Committee has submitted a list of potential payment increases to the CBO for review.
At a hearing last week, Rep. William Thomas (R-Calif.), chairman of the committee's healthcare subcommittee, said he is awaiting the CBO's cost estimates before deciding what payment increases to seek.
Thomas also asked HCFA to reconsider some of its interpretations of the Balanced Budget Act that were used as the basis for new payment policies.
At a hearing before Thomas' subcommittee last week, HCFA Deputy Administrator Michael Hash pledged to consider delays in cuts and reinterpretations of some payment rules, such as volume caps on hospital outpatient department services and payment floors for outpatient services for low-volume rural and urban hospitals and teaching hospitals.