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Amid GOP Grumbling, House Passes Package of Health Care Changes

By Marian Jarlenski and Frances Symes, CQ Staff

July 14, 2010 -- The House of Representatives on Wednesday passed legislation that would clarify a number of Medicare and Medicaid policies, but the debate gave Republicans a chance to once again criticize the recent health care overhaul.

Among the corrections in the measure (HR 5712), which was passed by voice vote, are several to provisions created by the health care overhaul that was enacted in March. Many of the clarifications had been included in legislation (HR 4213) that the House passed in May, but that bill—which would extend certain tax cuts and social safety-net programs—has languished in the Senate.

On Wednesday, Republicans took the opportunity to outline what they called "the fundamental flaws" in the recently enacted health care overhaul law (PL 111-148, PL 111-152).

"While I support the bill before us, it is not enough," said Wally Herger of California, the ranking Republican on the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health. "We must move beyond technical corrections and fix the fundamental flaws of the Democrats' health care law by repealing it and replacing it with solutions that work."

Specifically, the bill passed Wednesday would:

  • Provide $95 million for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to retroactively reprocess claims for services that were affected by the health care overhaul law.
  • Clarify Medicare enrollment rules for those eligible for Tricare, the military's health care plan.
  • Permit implementation of a new payment system for skilled nursing facilities.
  • Permit certain children's hospitals to continue to receive discounts for "orphan drugs" used to treat rare conditions.
  • Extend through fiscal 2011 a law that permits hospitals to be reclassified in a higher-wage index area for Medicare reimbursements.
  • Ensure that medical residency spots shared by affiliated hospitals would not be reallocated to other hospitals.

To offset the expected costs, the measure would reduce each year the funding available for the Medicare Improvement Fund, which is intended to allow CMS to make improvements to Medicare hospital and physician services.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the bill would result in a net reduction in the deficit of $12 million over 10 years.

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