Provider payment issues could top the agenda of Congress' Medicare reform committee long before the drug benefit that's the primary goal of reform talks, Washington sources said. Some lawmakers view the provider provisions, especially those aimed at helping rural hospitals, as the least controversial elements of the legislation. Financing, which depends on attaining savings elsewhere, is a different matter. Proposals to finance the provider aid include, for example, lower reimbursement for outpatient drugs. "The spending policies are not very contentious, but the savings policies are," a Senate aide said. Major action is not expected until Congress returns from its August recess. -- by Jeff Tieman
Lawmakers could get to provider issues before drug benefit
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