The Bush administration sent Congress a legislative package that pins his health reform agenda on a three-pronged approach of value-based purchasing, medical liability reform and higher Medicare prescription drug premiums for some seniors.
Provisions in the 29-page bill would require HHS to make personal health records available to Medicare beneficiaries and would give the department the authority to publicly release physician-specific quality and efficiency data. The bill would increase Medicare Part D premiums for single beneficiaries with incomes greater than $82,000 and married couples with incomes greater than $164,000. Other components of the bill would restrict medical liability claims and how much an injured person could recoup under punitive damages.
The legislative blueprint comes in response to the so-called 45% trigger, which required the White House to act if for two consecutive years general revenue made up more than 45% of total Medicare spending. That happened last year.
In a letter sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said that the billespecially if enacted with the reforms outlined in the presidents budgetwould help put the Medicare program on firmer financial ground."Perhaps more importantly, it would begin to address the long-term challenge and lay the foundation for the comprehensive Medicare reforms that are necessary to strengthen and improve the program for future generations," Leavitt states in the letter.
The bill, however, received a frosty reception by congressional Democrats. Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said that the proposal cuts Medicare at the expense of seniors. The presidents idea for improving the program is to stick the beneficiaries with more of the bill, he said in a written statement.
Rick Pollack, executive vice president at the American Hospital Association, said that the administration's proposal, coupled with the healthcare cuts laid out in its budget blueprint, would "strike a devastating blow to Medicare and the patients who benefit from this program." -- by Matthew DoBias
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