The $4.6 billion Medicare reform bill that President Bush signed into law Dec. 29 provides several victories for hospitals as well as extending the State Childrens Health Insurance Program through early 2009 and halting a 10% Medicare pay cut to physicians until July 1.
Bush did not specifically address the Medicare bill in his radio address that day, but instead took Congress to task, urging it to pass legislation in 2008 that will help make healthcare coverage more affordable for small businesses and workers who buy their own policies.
Hospitals see several gains under the new law, which was pared down from earlier versions in the interest of making it veto-proof. It contains a provision that will allow hospitals to recoup more money for their inpatient rehabilitation patients. It also extends several rural health provisions meant to aid small, out-of-the-way hospitals.
Doctors, who for years have sought a long-term fix to their outdated payment formula, instead saw only a six-month patch. The assumption is that when June comes and the stop-gap measure is about to expire, Congress will just stick another Band-Aid on it, instead of doing something more substantial such as fixing the formula that governs Medicare payments or replacing it altogether, said James King, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians.
Hospitals didnt win on all fronts under the new law. For instance, lawmakers didnt include a provision that would have put a moratorium on physician-owned specialty hospitals. -- by Jennifer Lubell and Matthew DoBias
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