Thursday, July 16, 2009

Will Congress have to give up Medicare payment control?

It’s quite a perk and a campaign tool for Congress: setting Medicare reimbursement rates for their local hospitals, doctors and home healthcare centers. (Take, for example, Alaska Republican Ted Stevens who managed to secure a permanent 35 percent increase in Medicare payments for Alaska physicians. How’s that for constituent services?)

Now, President Obama is considering taking that power away from Congress, potentially shifting the control to an independent entity, according to the Washington Post.

Read more
An advisory group might be better willing and able to tackle the skyrocketing Medicare spending. The House’s healthcare proposal announced this week, which Bob blogged about yesterday, doesn’t include ways to stem future Medicare costs.

But opponents argue that Congress will be held accountable, even if the power is taken away, so they should be able to protect the interests of their constituents. What do you think?

(Of course, Medicare reimbursement and reform has been a never-ending debate. In the meantime, check out our story on how to actually make it work for you.)


  1. I think the Post slightly overstates how much COngress can control what their region gets. Medicare's conversion factor is set by signed legislation, not manipulated annually by Congress. There is some play in the geogrpahic adjustors, but this seems relatively minro. Certainly, It's not Congressional pork-barrels that are primarily responsible for sending Medicare costs thru the roof. It's the aging population and the increased use of complex medical services.

  2. I sure hope Pam is right! (I never doubt a fellow cyclist.) To think that Senators have such power is unbelieveable. I thought they look at regional costs- malpractice, rent, employee costs, etc, in the region to set fee schedules.