Copyright 1999 The Washington Post
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November 6, 1999, Saturday, Final Edition
SECTION: A SECTION; Pg. A05
LENGTH: 371 words
House Passes Bill Restoring Billions in Medicare Payments
The House approved a bill
yesterday that would return billions of dollars previously trimmed from Medicare
payments to hospitals, nursing homes and other caregivers.
The legislation responds to lobbying by the health care industry, which
has complained it is struggling financially because of 1997 Medicare cuts, even
as government surpluses grow.
"We have heard that some of the changes we
made went a little too far," said Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Thomas J.
Bliley Jr. (R-Va.).
The Medicare cash relief, $ 11.5 billion over five
years, passed the House with broad bipartisan support by a vote of 388 to 25.
Most of the money in the House bill would go to hospitals, especially
teaching hospitals, those located in rural areas, and those that care for large
numbers of uninsured patients.
Nursing homes and home health care
companies also would get a boost in their fees.
HMOs, which have quit
serving Medicare beneficiaries in many counties during the past two years, would
get bigger payments and additional cash bonuses if they venture
back into unserved areas.
Among changes that would affect Medicare
beneficiaries most directly:
* A cap that has limited coverage
for speech and physical therapy--a combination often needed by people recovering
from a stroke--to $ 1,500 per year would be raised to $ 1,500 for each type of
* Patient co-payments for hospital
outpatient care, which vary widely and often exceed Medicare's standard 20
percent co-pay, would be limited to the same amount as the deductible for
inpatient care, $ 776 in 2000.
* Retirees who lose their HMOs
would have more flexibility to enroll in another one or buy Medigap insurance.
Or they could choose to stay in an HMO that withdraws from their county if it
still serves other nearby areas and they are willing to travel to use network
* Medicare payments for
Pap smears would rise to ensure access to the latest
Some differences must be resolved among the House bill,
legislation pending in the Senate and the Clinton administration. "We feel
confident that we'll be able to work out an agreement," said White House
domestic policy adviser Chris Jennings.
LOAD-DATE: November 06, 1999