A 3,016-page, 14-pound appropriations bill passed by Congress Saturday will delay implementation of new regulations defining rehabilitation hospitals as having 75% of patient admissions under certain DRG codes. Implementation will be postponed until the Government Accountability Office releases a study on the rule's potential impact, said Chip Kahn, president of the Federation of American Hospitals. The bill also will increase spending for nursing retention and education programs by $10 million, to $152 million, in fiscal 2005 while cutting funds for hospital bioterrorism preparedness by about $22 million.
The cut in hospital bioterrorism funds, to $495.4 million from $518 million, won't have a significant impact because much of the preparedness work has been completed, said Carla Luggiero, senior director of federal relations at the American Hospital Association. Besides the increased funding for nursing programs, other positives for hospitals include continued funding of $88.1 million for rural health outreach and research and $303.2 million in funding for graduate medical education for children's hospitals, Luggiero said. -- by Mark Taylor