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Copyright 2000 eMediaMillWorks, Inc. 
(f/k/a Federal Document Clearing House, Inc.)  
Federal Document Clearing House Congressional Testimony

July 25, 2000, Tuesday


LENGTH: 1027 words





Opening Statement of the Honorable William M. Thomas, M.C., California, Chairman, Subcommittee on Health Hearing on Additional Medicare Refinements to the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 July 25, 2000 Almost three years ago, Congress passed the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, which made Medicare payment and benefit reforms unseen since the inception of the program. This landmark legislation has strengthened Medicare substantially. It expanded coverage of preventive benefits for seniors, including pap smear tests and colorectal cancer screenings. It injected much-needed, new flexibility for seniors' different health care preferences by creating the Medicare+Choice program. It provided new tools to combat health care waste, fraud and abuse that resulted in savings to the program and helped improve its efficiency. Finally, the BBA adjusted payments to providers and introduced reforms in fee-for-service, such as prospective payment systems, that have resulted in more accurate payments and have contributed to the extended solvency of the Part A Trust fund. When we formulated and enacted the BBA, Congress relied on the data and estimates available at the time. The Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) has implemented most of the more than 300 changes to Medicare that the law required. In some cases, HCFA has missed deadlines for implementation, or has developed policies that need refinement. Last year, Congress recognized that such sweeping changes in payment policy often require some degree of fine-tuning. In response to HCFA's delays and implementation problems and financial data on the BBA's impact on providers, Congress passed the Balanced Budget Refinement Act (BBRA) which restored $16 billion to hospitals, nursing homes, home health, Medicare+Choice, and rural health. Perhaps most important, though, the BBRA contained provisions that directly addressed the needs of seniors: limiting the outpatient hospital copayment, increasing payments for pap smears, and extending benefits for immunosuppressive drugs. It is worth noting that much of the BBRA's relief for providers- $10 billion of the $16 billion-is not scheduled to be paid to providers until FY 2001 and FY 2002. Those asking for additional relief should keep in mind this important fact. As Congress evaluates the need for further refinements this Fall, we will be factoring in the BBRA payment schedule of funds that providers have yet to receive. That said, early this year, I made the point that the Subcommittee would monitor the continued impact of the BBA on all types of providers. We are willing to consider limited changes to the BBA to address the remaining unanticipated or unintended consequences stemining from this historic legislation. If refinements are necessary, I am hopeful that bipartisan consensus can be achieved and that a cooperative working environment between the Congress and the Administration will prevail, as it has in the past on these matters. I am pleased that HCFA is here to provide a progress report on BBA implementation and technical assistance on Medicare payment areas that need further improvement. Additionally, we will hear from people who deliver health services in all parts of the country. I look forward to a productive dialogue on what specific additional refinements are needed to improve the payment structures in the Medicare program.

LOAD-DATE: August 10, 2000, Thursday

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