Since President Obama's State of the Union address two weeks ago, interest in the Senate seems to be more focused on passing a jobs bill than the healthcare reform bill in the immediate future—but that doesn't mean healthcare is completely out of the picture.
Tucked into drafts of the jobs bill making their way around Capitol Hill are various healthcare provisions—many of which are temporary in nature and are directed at holding various programs in place until legislators can deal with the issues more completely through a healthcare reform measure.
- Providing a seven month extension (until the end of fiscal 2010 on Sept. 30) of the Medicare payment fix that would postpone 21% physician Medicare payment cuts. (The current temporary fix approved by Congress in late December expires at the end of this month.)
- Changing the definition of "hospital based physician" under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act's HITECH provisions to allow physicians who practice in hospital owned outpatient centers and clinics to qualify for federal payment incentives for health information technology (HIT). The clarification to the ARRA language would be used to make sure that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services does not exclude physicians providing services for patients in outpatient centers from receiving Medicare and Medicaid HIT incentive payments.
- Making technical corrections to extend payments through 2010 for certain Medicare programs, such as Part B therapy caps, ambulance add on payments, and expanded payments for mental health services.
- Making technical corrections to reimburse critical access hospitals at 101% of their reasonable costs for specified outpatient services, and to extend various Medicare payments to long-term care hospitals and rural hospitals through 2010.
Janice Simmons is a senior editor and Washington, DC, correspondent for HealthLeaders Media Online. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org