Hospitals React To Proposal To Revamp Medicare Advisory Panel

In an effort to trim medical costs, President Barack Obama is trying to strengthen the role of an independent commission to determine how much Medicare pays doctors and hospitals.

Kaiser Health News reports on the reaction of certain hospitals including many model systems that are critical of the commission: These facilities "pride themselves on holding down costs and improving quality and are fed up with how slowly Congress has moved to change the payment system." KHN reports that the hospital industry "said creating a super MedPAC would unfairly usurp legislative power" and "the Association of American Medical Colleges, which represents teaching hospitals, had a similar view." Meanwhile, "CHRISTUS Health, a Catholic health system with more than 50 hospitals largely in Texas and Louisiana, supports the Obama strategy."

KHN reports: "Setting Medicare payment rates is traditionally a process filled with political squabbling as members of Congress look to protect dollars going to their local hospitals and doctors rather than promote fees and payment plans that drive efficiency in the health system. The Obama administration plan is to establish an agency called the Independent Medicare Advisory Council that would make recommendations on Medicare fees to the president. For Congress to overturn this council's recommendations, lawmakers would have to pass a joint resolution within a month. It would work similarly to the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission, which was formed to reduce the political infighting involved in closing military bases" (Galewitz, 7/24). 

The Minnesota Post-Bulletin reports: "Mayo Clinic is finding health-care reform legislation in Washington easier to swallow now that some sugar has been added: The proposed creation of a council that would pay more for efficient, value-driven health care." The Mayo Clinic initially criticized the idea and signed a letter to Congress that expressed its "significant concerns" about health reform legislation because the plan was too similar to the Medicare system. However, Mayo changed its' stance and offered support for an Independent Medicare Advisory Council: "Mayo's Health Policy Center released the statement on its blog Tuesday applauding the proposed creation of the IMAC that would move Medicare to a 'value-based payment' model. One of Mayo's complaints about health reform was that it didn't sufficiently reward health providers such as Mayo that provide quality health care at a low price, instead rewarding those who order the most procedures" (Klein, 7/23).

CNN reports on the pros and cons of such a commission, noting that "opponents view this proposal as 'big brother' dictating medical treatment" (Bohn and Yellin, 7/23).

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