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By MATTHEW HAY
HHBR Washington Correspondent
WASHINGTON The House and Senate Budget Committees both unanimously passed amendments last week aimed at restoring part of the home health benefit that was stripped by the interim payment system (IPS). In the House, Rep. Robert Weygand (D-RI) and Rep. Paul Ryun (R-KS) introduced language that urges Congress to cancel the across-the-board 15% reduction in home health spending included in the IPS. But the House Budget Committee also defeated a measure introduced by Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) that would have earmarked 2% of the projected budget surplus for a long term care program that includes home care.
Meanwhile, the Senate Budget Committee passed an amendment introduced by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) that says the IPS and other changes in the Medicare home health benefit are limiting access to home health services and penalizing efficient, low-cost providers.
The two resolutions must be reconciled in a joint House-Senate Conference Committee, and home care’s battle is far from over. But it is a good sign that these measures were likely boosted by the latest Congressional Budget Office (CBO; Washington) projection that IPS will strip $47 billion from the Medicare home health benefit between 1998 and 2002. When the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 was being debated, CBO projected only a $16.1 billion reduction over this period.