Senate leaders have turned up the heat on HHS, requesting the release of a series of pending reports on the current State Childrens Health Insurance Program and a pay-for-performance initiative known as hospital value-based purchasing.
In two separate letters sent to HHS on Tuesday, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the committees senior Republican, called the information critical to both pending and future legislation, if needed.
Grassley and Baucus said that they want to goad the CMS into action, and both argue that the information being requested is needed to help better shape Medicare and SCHIP. The senators want the CMS to release the reports to committee staffers by Sept. 17.
In 2005, Congress set out parameters that the CMS would have to follow in order to launch a full value-based purchasing program, which would aim to better align CMS payments with hospital quality and performance improvement. In the Medicare bill, lawmakers said the CMS would have to identify measures and have in place a modifications process, as well as have data reporting, payment adjustments and disclosure of hospital performance.
CMS Acting Administrator Kerry Weems told reporters Wednesday that the report on hospital value-based purchasing would be released soon. "We're aware of the senators' letters and working on the expedited release of both reports," a CMS spokeman said.
Baucus said that accurate, unpoliticized information about SCHIP could help Congress in its current effort to extend the 10-year-old program. SCHIP expires Sept. 30.
In its SCHIP letter, the senators specifically single out any contracts or agreements HHS has with the Mathematica Policy Research group. Mathematica conducted the congressionally mandated evaluations of SCHIP, according to the letter, and may have some more reports under way. -- by Matthew DoBias