CMS Administrator Tom Scully said this week's report from the trustees of the Medicare Hospital Insurance Trust Fund will make it more difficult for hospitals to win payment relief on Capitol Hill. The report predicted the fund will run dry in 2026, or four years earlier than was projected last year, and said Medicare's inpatient hospital spending increased 9.8% last year. Speaking this morning at the Federation of American Hospitals' annual meeting in Washington, Scully said, "That's not good. It's not good for you, and it's not good for us." Scully, who led the federation from 1995 to 2001, also said hospitals must be prepared to accept that more information on quality of care will be made public and that Medicare reimbursement will be linked to quality measures. He said the CMS will build a consensus with the federation and the American Hospital Association on how to release more quality information, but that he expects the link to payments will take much longer.
In response to a question, Scully said the uproar over outlier payments at Tenet Healthcare Corp., Santa Barbara, Calif., has set back efforts to reduce hospitals' paperwork by eliminating cost reports. "When we find problems like that, it makes it hard to get rid of cost reports," he said. -- by Vince Galloro