Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus released his Medicare reform bill containing a physician-payment fix that increases payments by 1.1% in 2009.
Baucus bill also includes a provision that revokes the authority of the Joint Commission to deem hospitals in compliance with Medicare conditions of participation. Also, the bill requires private fee-for-service plans in Medicare Advantage to develop networks of providers to ensure care for beneficiaries, and to measure and report on quality of care.
The bill makes smart changes to stop overpayments to private plans that are getting more than their share of taxpayer dollars, Baucus said in a written statement.
The physician payment increase is higher than what Baucus originally proposed in his draft bill several days ago. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has an alternative proposal that includes a 0.5% pay increase through 2008, and a 1.1% increase in 2009. Its likely that Grassleys bill will be released this week, said an aide to the finance panels ranking member. The Congressional Budget Office has yet to estimate the cost of Baucus bill, although Baucus, in a meeting with physician representatives, said the bill could cost just under $20 billion over five years.
Baucus' bill also extends certain provisions offering support to rural healthcare providers, as well as provisions that would offer certain hospitals additional payments to cover their labor costs under Medicare.
In other physician provisions, Baucus bill proposes to increase the Physicians Quality Reporting Initiative bonus for providers who measure and report on quality of care, and offers incentives to doctors who move to safer, more reliable electronic prescribing methods, decreasing payments to doctors who fail to do so by 2011.
Baucus also said he was aiming for bipartisan passage of the bill on the Senate floor this month.
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