President Clinton last week signed legislation increasing Medicare payments to healthcare providers by $15.1 billion over five years, ending a yearlong campaign by providers to reverse payment restraints enacted under the Balanced Budget Act of 1997. With the addition of some funds for Medicaid and other government programs, total spending under the new legislation will equal $18.1 billion. Acute-care hospitals will get more than $5 billion, including the reversal of $3.6 billion in cuts to outpatient departments. Also, scheduled reductions in reimbursement for teaching hospitals will be slowed. Meanwhile, a 15% cut in home health payments has been delayed, while skilled-nursing payments for treating the sickest beneficiaries have been increased. In signing the bill, Clinton called for comprehensive Medicare reform next year, including the addition of prescription drugs as a covered benefit (See related story, p. 6). That might be the chief legislative healthcare initiative next year, although providers say they will ask for more rollbacks to the budget law.
Provider relief becomes law
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