Healthcare organizations are divided regarding a draft bill in the House to reauthorize the State Childrens Health Insurance Program and address other Medicare payment issues.
The Childrens Health and Medicare Protection Act, or CHAMP, released earlier this week by congressional Democrats, would commit $50 billion to expanding and reauthorizing the program, using a 45-cent federal tax on tobacco products as a revenue source. The draft bill would maintain current eligibility provisions on SCHIP, but contains new coverage options for immigrant children and pregnant women. States would be given a new option to cover family-planning services without a waiver.
The bill contains a number of non-SCHIP provisions, such as eliminating future cuts on Medicare physician reimbursement and phasing out Medicare Advantage overpayments over four years to 100% of fee-for-service in 2011. In addition, the bill refines Medicare payments for a number of providers, including long-term-care hospitals, skilled-nursing facilities and rehabilitation facilities.
In a letter to Congress, the Federation of American Hospitals endorsed the CHAMP bills provisions to put a permanent ban on physician self-referral to specialty hospitals and halt the transition to the 75% rule for inpatient rehab facilities at 60%.
Yet, other groups such as the American Health Care Association believe the legislation may result in cuts to long-term-care funding.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee are meeting today to consider the bills provisions. The Senate Finance Committee last week approved a $35 billion bill to reauthorize the program, although President Bush has threatened to veto what comes out of Congress. Wednesday, a coalition of more than 30 healthcare organizations held a briefing to challenge the veto threat.
There was no specific endorsement of the House or Senate bill, said a spokesman for the Catholic Health Association, a member of the coalition. The message to Congress is, get it done. -- by Jennifer Lubell
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