By Julian Pecquet - 05/21/10 03:12 PM EDT
Hospital groups are pushing back against a provision in the pending tax extenders bill they say could slash their Medicare payments by $4.5 billion over 10 years.
Hospitals fear the provision could forbid them from billing some care administered within 72 hours of a patient’s admission separately from the bill they would send for a patient’s hospital stay, which is less lucrative.
"This policy protects the Medicare program and seniors simply
conforming the law to the way hospitals are already doing business,"
Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said in a statement.
Groups representing hospitals point out their industry has already
accepted payment cuts under the healthcare law signed by President
Barack Obama earlier this year.
“Hospitals have already accepted
$155 billion in Medicare and Medicaid cuts through healthcare reform,”
Christiane Mitchell, director of federal affairs for the Association of
American Medical Colleges, wrote in an e-mail requesting that members
contact their members of Congress.
Pending Medicare rules,
she adds, suggest additional cuts are coming that would hit teaching
hospitals particularly hard.
“We cannot support an additional
$4.5 billion in Medicare hospital payment cuts,” Mitchell writes in the
e-mail, which was obtained by The Hill. “Please share any feedback you
might receive; your input will greatly help in our efforts to block the
While several hospital groups have touted the $4.5
billion figure, Democrats have not given a specific estimate of the
A summary of the pending bill released
Thursday by Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and House Ways
and Means Committee Chairman Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) says the
Congressional Budget Office is still estimating the provision’s savings
“The bill would … [prevent] future unbundling of
services and submission of adjustment claims seeking separate and
additional Medicare payments,” the summary says.
The bill is
expected to come before the House Rules Committee on Monday and hit
the House floor by Tuesday. Lawmakers want to pass it before the Memorial
Day recess because it affects a number of expiring provisions, but its
support in the Senate remains shaky.
Many deficit-wary members are concerned that some three-quarters of the
package may be unpaid for. The cuts to hospital payments would help pay for
The American Hospital Association has also weighed in
against the measure.
“We oppose inclusion of this provision in the jobs bill to reduce further hospital reimbursement,” the group wrote in an action alert to its members sent Thursday morning.