In Congress, there’s much merriment after Democrats and Republicans found a way through their differences to prevent a government shutdown, stave off another debt-ceiling showdown, and create some long-term stability in the federal budget.
But while Congress breathes a sigh of relief over its budget deal, hospitals are fuming, furious that lawmakers chose to finance part of the bargain with a $9 billion Medicare change.
The deal, which passed in the wee hours Friday morning, will change the rate at which Medicare reimburses doctors’ offices that have been bought by hospitals. Previously, services at these offices would to be reimbursed at the rates paid to hospitals. Currently, hospitals are reimbursed at higher rates than physician’s offices because, the argument goes, of the additional expenses, such as being open 24 hours a day and maintaining standby capacity.
But under the new deal, these hospital-owned doctors’ offices will be reimbursed at the same rate as other doctors’ offices for their services.
Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell touted the change as another step toward controlling health care costs: “In the piece of legislation that we see before us, the site-neutral payment issue, which was something we have had in our budget, which has been taken in a different form, but is continued progress on things we think will have downward price pressure and help this issue overall for the nation,” Burwell said in a briefing with reporters on Thursday, before the Senate also passed the bill.