Hospital trade group issues alert on looming cuts

These include:

• reductions in payments to hospitals for assistance to low-income Medicare beneficiaries that results in bad debt;

• reductions in payments for evaluation and management services provided in hospital outpatient departments;

• extending the current cap on therapy services to services provided in hospital outpatient departments in addition to the current cap on services provided in nursing homes and other freestanding settings;

• weakening the prohibition on the establishment of new physician-owned specialty hospitals, and relaxing the restrictions for growth on those that exist; and

• providing the Medicare agency with new authority to make additional across-the-board cuts to Medicare inpatient hospital rates through retroactive cuts for fiscal years 2010, 2011 and 2012.

"These critical issues, and others, will still be on the table when Congress returns," the alert says. "And given that this is an election year for this deeply divided Congress, the final bill may represent the only legislation to address Medicare issues before the election."