The Senate Finance Committee has agreed to replace a scheduled Medicare physician pay cut of about 10% with a payment increase of 0.5% through June 30, 2008, and to extend funding for the State Childrens Health Insurance Program through the early part of 2009.
The Finance Committee patched together a host of provisions to extend Medicare and Medicaid programs that were set to expire, including a physician quality-reporting program and certain bonus payments to doctors who practice in shortage areas.
The $4.6 billion bill surprised health policy analysts because it included many more provisions than previously expected. But even so, the short-term fix means even more work for federal lawmakers starting early next month.
The plan also includes a provision that permanently freezes the inpatient rehabilitation compliance threshold at 60%instead of allowing it to rise to 75%and erases a 3.2% increase in Medicare payments that inpatient rehab providers expected to get in 2008.
Richard Pollack, executive vice president at the American Hospital Association, said that the association is pleased with many of the provisions, but added that Congress will have to deal with a host of other issues, such as physician self-referral and some Medicaid matters.
The Senate could vote on the bill later today, and the House has approved a rule that would fast-track its own vote. -- by Matthew DoBias
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