October 05,2000

Roth, Moynihan Introduce Bipartisan Medicare Medicaid and SCHIP Improvements Act of 2000

WASHINGTON -- Senate Finance Committee Chairman William V. Roth, and Ranking Member Daniel Patrick Moynihan today introduced S. 3165, the "Medicare, Medicaid and SCHIP Improvements Act of 2000." Finance Committee cosponsors include: Senator Orrin G. Hatch (R-UT), Senator Frank H. Murkowski (R-AK), Senator James M. Jeffords (R-VT) and Senator J. Robert Kerrey (D-NE). The proposal reduces beneficiary costs and improves prevention benefits; improves payments for health care services of Medicare and Medicaid providers; and addresses the needs of lower-income individuals and children.

Chairman William V. Roth, Jr. (R-DE) submitted the following statement to the record:

"Mr. President, I am very pleased today to join Senator Moynihan and my other colleagues on the Senate Finance Committee in introducing the Medicare, Medicaid and SCHIP Improvements Act of 2000. This is important, bipartisan legislation intended to address needed health care funding and other improvements in these programs that are so important to millions of Americans. Every year on the Finance Committee we maintain watchful oversight of these critical programs to make sure that beneficiary access to services is maintained, and that payments and benefits are adjusted to meet beneficiaries' needs. This bill would add about $28 billion in funds to these programs over the next five years. Following are some of the highlights of this legislation:

1) Medicare Beneficiary Assistance provisions would reduce coinsurance liability for hospital outpatient services; improve access to Medigap coverage; permit Medicare+Choice plans to give beneficiaries cash rebates of Part B premiums; protect access to immunosuppressive, cancer, hemophilia and other drugs, and extend Part B premium assistance for lower-income beneficiaries.

2) Preventive Health Benefits would expand existing or add new coverage for pap smears, colorectal cancer screening, and nutrition therapy, and request further work on effective preventive benefits for later consideration in Medicare.

3) Rural Health Care Improvements address service capacity and access to services through increased payments for critical access, sole-community and Medicare-dependent hospitals. The package also includes provisions for rural health clinics, ambulance services, and telemedicine. Rural hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and home health agencies also benefit from general financing improvements detailed in other sections.

4) Medicare+Choice Provisions stabilize and improve funding for beneficiaries electing to enroll in privately-offered Medicare+Choice plans, with special attention to rural communities; restore funding for beneficiary education campaigns; and provide additional assistance for frail, disabled and rural beneficiaries.

5) Hospital Funding Improvements increase annual payment updates; improve disproportionate share hospital (DSH) payments under Medicare and Medicaid for providing uncompensated care to uninsured patients; reform Medicare's DSH program to reduce disparities in the treatment of rural and urban hospitals; add funding for rehabilitation hospitals; and protect payments for teaching hospitals.

6) Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) Provisions improve funding, maintain access to therapy services, and reduce regulatory burdens by delaying implementation of consolidated billing.

7) Home Health and Hospice Provisions protect funding for home health services by delaying a scheduled 15% cut in payments; increasing funding for high-cost outlier cases, and making special temporary payments to rural agencies. Hospice provisions improve funding, require research on issues related to eligibility for the benefit and establish a hospice demonstration program.

8) Dialysis and Durable Medical Equipment (DME) Provisions improve payments for DME for all Medicare beneficiaries, and for services received by individuals with end-stage renal disease, as well as enhancing their opportunities to participate in the Medicare+Choice program.

9) Additional Provisions address physician, laboratory, ambulatory surgery center and other medical services. The package also creates a Joint Committee on Health Care Financing to provide professional support to the Congress in addressing the burgeoning cost and legislative complexity of the Medicare, Medicaid and State Children's Health Insurance programs and monitoring the viability of safety net providers.

10) Medicaid and SCHIP Provisions improve the financing of and access to services provided by federally qualified health centers and rural health clinics; establish policies for the retention and redistribution of unspent SCHIP funds; increase authorization for the Maternal and Child Health Block Grant; and add funding for special diabetes programs for children and Native Americans.

"I would like to accomplish even more this year, especially in the Medicare program. For instance, I remain committed to securing comprehensive drug benefits for the aged and disabled beneficiaries in Medicare. I will continue to work towards that goal. However, I am pleased that we were able to achieve bipartisan support for these improvements and I will continue my efforts to build the bipartisan consensus needed to proceed on larger Medicare reforms in the near future."