Providers who report quality data would receive full Medicare reimbursement plus bonuses if they meet certain quality standards, under a bill introduced today by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.) Those that do not report the data would receive Medicare reimbursements at the full rate of inflation minus 2 percentage points. The bill would affect Medicare reimbursements beginning in 2007, establishing a pool that year of funds made up of 1% of all Medicare hospital inpatient payments. The percentage of payments funding the pool would increase incrementally, reaching 2% in 2011. Those who meet quality threshold standards established by HHS would receive bonuses from the pool. For physicians, a similar pool would be created, starting in 2008. A national information technology network pilot program would also be established, allowing providers to exchange clinical, claims and outcomes data for Medicare beneficiaries.
In other Washington news, the Veterans Affairs Department will receive $1.5 billion in emergency funding to cover a budget shortfall after the Senate unanimously passed an amendment to the Interior Department spending bill. The VA said last week that its projected budget was incorrect and didn't taken into account an estimated $1 billion needed to provide healthcare for veterans returning from the Middle East. The VA is expected to ask the House for additional funds this week, but it is unclear what the result will be. Earlier this week, the House voted down a move by Democrats to increase funding. The White House today asked the House of Representatives for an additional $975 million for the VA. -- by Tony Fong