Providers applauded the payment boosts in Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus Medicare reform bill, but thought more could have been done on quality measures.
The bill includes many important provisions to help hospitals better serve patients, particularly in vulnerable rural areas, Blair Childs, senior vice president of public affairs with the Premier healthcare alliance, said in a written statement. However, Childs said he hoped eventually to see the inclusion of a well-designed Medicare hospital value-based purchasing program. We also anticipate seeing provisions addressing quality incentives in any future bipartisan compromise moving forward.
Various physician groups supported Baucus effort to halt a 10% cut to physician reimbursement in July and increase payments by 1.1% in 2009, along with its provisions to increase the bonus payment for the Physician Quality Reporting Initiative, and to extend the program.
James King, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, specifically hailed the provisions that would offer more support to rural healthcare providers, and expand authority for the CMS Medical Home Demonstration Project. Patient-centered medical homes would more effectively coordinate patient care and dramatically reduce fragmentation of care, duplication of services and patient confusion, King said in a written statement.
In a draft letter to Baucus, a Democrat from Montana, and Senate Finance member Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), the American College of Cardiology praised the bills incentives to adopt electronic-prescribing methods and to pilot test the criteria for accrediting diagnostic-imaging providers.
The AMA commends Chairman Baucus for his leadership in working to enact legislation that will stop looming Medicare physician payment cuts that begin in less than 30 days, said Edward Langston, board chairman of the American Medical Association, in a written statement. Baucus is aiming for bipartisan passage of the bill on the Senate floor this month.
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.
However, some on the finance panel say the door hasnt closed yet on bipartisan negotiations. Baucus bill already has some of the committees GOP on board, so technically its already a bipartisan bill, said Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark), in an interview.
As for Grassley, I dont think he ever shuts the door to possibilities for a compromise, Lincoln said. -- by Jennifer Lubell