Higher forecasts of technology-driven healthcare costs may jeopardize a package of Medicare payment increases being consider by lawmakers.
The New York Times reported last week that a federal advisory committee was on the verge of recommending changes to the forecasting assumptions contained in the annual report of the Medicare Hospital Insurance Trust Fund.
The committee was reported to be concerned that rising technology costs will drain the Medicare Part A trust fund more quickly than previous estimates had stated. The committee's recommendations would put the projected exhaustion date of the trust fund at 2021, instead of 2025 estimated by the fund's trustees earlier this year (April 3, p. 6).
The six-member panel of actuaries and economists is charged with recommending changes to the assumptions Medicare trustees use in making their annual statement of the trust fund's solvency.
The panel is expected to make its formal recommendation to the Medicare trustees by the end of December.
News of the earlier insolvency projection comes as Congress is about to return to work on remaining legislation that didn't pass before the Nov. 7 election.
Some lobbyists said they fear that lawmakers will use the news of the earlier insolvency date as an excuse not to pass pending legislation that would increase Medicare spending by $27.6 billion between now and 2005, as well as adding another $5 billion to Medicaid and state children's health insurance program funds.
"This is more turbulence in the (political) system that we don't need," said one hospital lobbyist, who asked not to be named. "It's a distortion that's not helpful."