A Medicare modernization bill with provisions to boost payments to rural providers was introduced in the Senate, and a key vote, by the Senate Finance Committee, could take place as soon as tomorrow. The bill, sponsored by committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and ranking Democrat Max Baucus of Montana, would provide similar prescription drug benefits under traditional Medicare and the private-sector managed-care plans participating in a new option called Medicare Advantage. President Bush said he supports the rural health amendments that Grassley attempted to include in recent federal tax-cut legislation and that now are part of the reform bill. Among other changes, the provisions would permanently equalize Medicare's base payment rates for rural and urban hospitals. The provisions would be financed through a seven-year freeze on increases in durable medical equipment payments. The American Hospital Association said it won't lobby against the tradeoff. If approved by the committee, the bill would go to the full Senate, with a vote possibly occurring next week. Meanwhile, the House is expected to begin debating its version of Medicare reform legislation, also perhaps as early as next week. -- by Jeff Tieman
Medicare reform bill introduced in Senate
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