October 03,2000

Roth Releases Draft Medicare Funding Proposal

Committee will Meet in Closed Session to Review Wednesday

WASHINGTON -- Senate Finance Committee Chairman William V. Roth, Jr. (R-DE) today released his draft proposal on the "Medicare, Medicaid and SCHIP Improvements Act of 2000." The proposal includes adjustments in the areas of:

• Medicare Beneficiary Assistance

• Hospital Funding Improvements

• Rural Health Care Improvements

• Medicare+Choice Provisions

• Home Health and Hospice Provisions

• Preventive Health Benefits

• Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) Provisions

• Dialysis and Durable Medical Equipment (DME) Provisions

• Medicaid and SCHIP Provisions

"Today I am releasing a first draft of the 'Medicare, Medicaid and SCHIP Improvements Act of 2000.' This legislation is necessary because there have been some unintended consequences from the Balanced Budget Act that the Clinton-Gore Administration and the Congress enacted in 1997. We need to take action to ensure that beneficiaries are protected from unexpected slow-downs in Medicare spending. With this legislation, we can address the needs of hospitals and health care providers, to ensure that millions of Americans receive the best possible care and services," Chairman Roth stated.

"Time is short. I am requesting that Committee members review the proposal, and prepare for a private members meeting Wednesday. I am interested in hearing their comments so that I can make final revisions to this bill prior to its introduction."

A summary of the "Medicare, Medicaid and SCHIP Improvements Act of 2000" is attached. The proposal will be posted on the Senate Finance Committee web site later today.

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Medicare, Medicaid and SCHIP Improvements Act of 2000

Draft Proposal - Senate Finance Committee

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 all or part of Part B premiums; protect access to immunosuppressive, cancer, hemophilia and other drugs, and extend Part B premium assistance for lower-income beneficiaries.

2) 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.

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) 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.

6) 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.

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

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.