Providers might see more relief. Healthcare providers may be in line for another financial giveback from Congress this year, according to Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.), chairwoman of the House Ways and Means health subcommittee. At a breakfast with reporters last week, Johnson said there likely would be a bill this year scaling back cuts to providers' Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement, but it would not be "as extensive as last year's." Legislation has been introduced in the House to eliminate a pending 15% cut to Medicare home health payments scheduled for implementation in 2002.
Prescription-drug gap widens. HCFA researchers report a widening gap between Medicare beneficiaries with and without prescription-drug coverage. Medicare beneficiaries without any prescription-drug coverage received 2.4% fewer prescriptions from 1997 to 1998, while prescriptions for those with drug benefits grew 9% during the same period. Although covered beneficiaries saw their out-of-pocket share of total drug costs rise as well, those without prescription-drug benefits continued to spend more out of pocket on medications despite receiving fewer prescriptions. The study was published in the March/April Health Affairs.