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Ways and Means Okays More Than a Dozen Health Hearings

February 22, 2005—The House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee plans more than a dozen oversight hearings in the 109th session of Congress, including on retiree health benefits, health savings accounts, and Medicare coverage of new technologies.

In a letter to the House committees on Administration and on Government Reform, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas, R-Calif., said the Health Subcommittee will hold a hearing to evaluate management of the Medicare program by CMS, including that agency's progress in implementing the Medicare overhaul law (PL 108-173).

In a separate and broader statement of his objectives, Thomas explained that oversight of the law is "critical to ensure there is little or no disruption for seniors or providers in receiving or delivering benefits."

Thomas added in the statement to the House Budget Committee that he aims to examine ways to reduce waste and fraud in Medicare.
The Ways and Means Committee "is also examining all of Medicare's payment systems to ensure reimbursements to providers are appropriate and that quality is rewarded."

The committee also "plans to examine strategies to reduce the number of Americans without health insurance and allow consumers greater choice in obtaining health care."

The specific list of Health Subcommittee hearings also mentions plans to examine "pricing transparency" for hospital services, the wage index used in Medicare hospital payment, and the differences between specialty and community hospitals. Also in the hospital sphere, the subcommittee will look at paying facilities based on quality and their use of "physician resources." And it will examine the need for more timely and accurate reporting of financial data by hospitals.

The subcommittee will hold a hearing on whether Medicare payments contain incentives to inappropriately shift treatment to more lucrative post-acute care settings. And the panel will study proposals "that provide financial security to individuals for long term care costs outside of the traditional Medicare structure."

Other hearings will look at the impact of the Medicare law on retiree drug coverage offered by employers; improvements in anti-fraud efforts; Medicare solvency; tax credits, risk reinsurance and purchasing pools to foster coverage of the uninsured; policies that hinder or foster Medicare coverage of new technologies; appropriate Medicare payments to home health agencies, skilled nursing facilities; kidney dialysis providers, and durable medical equipment firms; Medicare managed care plans; and information technology, medical liability, and Medigap revisions.

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