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October 06, 2003 | Daily News

Nurse practitioners (NPs) will be able to serve as primary caregivers for their patients after they enroll in hospice programs for end-of-life health care if the Medicare bill passes with the agreements recently announced by conferees.

The conference report will include a provision empowering NPs to act as attending physicians for the purposes of hospice care, a congressional aide said. That language is in the House bill only.

October 06, 2003 | Daily News

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and the generic drug industry will press Congress to pass a drug patent reform bill this year even if Medicare drug benefit legislation stalls. Schumer is a key architect of the drug patent reform provisions included in the House and Senate Medicare bills now in conference.

The issue of a fallback plan was discussed at the Sept. 30-Oct. 1 Institute for International Research (IIR) generic drug symposium.

October 03, 2003 | Daily News

Medicare conferees have reached a tentative agreement on how to structure a new regional private health plan option, eliminating a cap of three preferred provider organizations per region. CMS Administrator Tom Scully charged the agreement could bust lawmakers' budget for the prescription drug bill and undermine administration support for increased payments to Medicare's current private insurers.

October 02, 2003 | Daily News

The brand-name and generic drug industries have made progress in reconciling their differences over a provision in Medicare drug legislation that would limit amendments and supplements to generic drug applications. The two groups discussed the issue on Sept. 30.

October 01, 2003 | Daily News

Ten senators, backed by medical technology and pharmaceutical manufacturers, are asking Medicare conferees to adopt the House bill's provision providing for increased payments for new medical technologies, while warning against attempts to lower the cost of the provision by raising the bar for qualifying new procedures for additional payments.

October 01, 2003 | Daily News

Editor's Note: This article has been modified to reflect a clarification from the American Ambulance Association the group continues to push for across-the-board reimbursement increases for both rural and urban providers.

The American Ambulance Association (AAA) voted last week to lobby Medicare conferees for a conference report that provides payment boosts to ambulance providers for services in all rural areas and increases payments based on population density -- providing higher payments to the more rural areas.

September 30, 2003 | Daily News

Rep. George Nethercutt (R-WA) has enlisted the support of eight House colleagues in an effort to urge House Medicare conferees to abandon their proposal to purchase durable medical equipment (DME) through competitive bidding or at a minimum include a special carve-out for diabetes monitoring equipment.

A Sept. 23 letter asks conferees to give "every consideration to the Senate language, which would freeze DME payments at the current levels."

September 29, 2003 | Daily News

Medicare conference negotiations on payments for rural physicians are expected to feature a fresh attempt by Senate staff to convince skeptical House staff of the merits of the Senate's plan to raise rural physicians' reimbursement for their practice expense, industry sources said.

The Senate bill's proposed new floor for the rural practice expense reimbursement index is the most controversial component in the debate on raising Medicare payments for rural physicians.

September 26, 2003 | Daily News

Clinical laboratories are seeking to quash a proposal in the Senate Medicare bill to impose new beneficiary cost sharing for laboratory tests, arguing labs would face high administrative costs collecting relatively minor payments and likely would have to absorb a substantial portion of unpaid bills.

The industry is seeking to wean Senate conferees away from the $18.6 billion savings generated by the proposal with arguments the proposal is unworkable. The labs have already received a positive response from some Senate Medicare conferees.

September 26, 2003 | Daily News

A confidential agenda for the remaining three weeks of Medicare conference negotiations groups reimportation, employer retiree coverage and subsidies for state pharmaceutical assistance programs among second-tier issues for work by bicameral, bipartisan staff and eventual decisions by select conferees. However the schedule, which does not specify timelines for these issues, holds open the possibility that these issues will have to be resolved by the full conference.

September 25, 2003 | Daily News

President Bush has called House and Senate Medicare conferees to a White House meeting scheduled for 2:30 p.m. today (Sept.25), according to congressional sources. The scheduled meeting appears to fulfill calls from congressional leaders for a push by the president to bring contentious conference negotiations on the rival prescription drug bills to a successful conclusion.

September 25, 2003 | Daily News

Oncologists have mounted a new attempt to forge a compromise with Medicare conferees that averts drastic reimbursement cuts in both bills, putting forward an offer that signals a renewed willingness to accept a permanent fix to the average wholesale price (AWP) reimbursement system while demanding a three-year transition and over $1 billion in increased practice expense payments.

September 25, 2003 | Daily News

The Medicare conference will not reach an early agreement on provider issues, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas (R-CA) told Inside CMS after President Bush called the conferees to the White House today (Sept. 25) to urge them towards a successful conclusion to negotiations on a prescription drug bill.

"It's got too many facets to deal with in a finite way," Thomas said, noting that payments to insurers were in the mix of provider issues along with hospital and physician reimbursement. "That's part of the mix going forward."

September 23, 2003 | Daily News

The House Ways and Means Committee's top Democrat today (Sept. 23) urged lawmakers to take steps outside of the bogged-down Medicare conference to lower drug costs, touting a bill to remove the corporate tax deduction for direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertisements that do not show the benefits and risks of medications in a "fairly balanced manner."

September 19, 2003 | Daily News

A group of Senate lawmakers are poised to press Senate leaders to strengthen the chamber's language on Medicare's cost contracting program.

Medicare cost contract plans -- HMOs reimbursed for the actual cost of care -- serve roughly 340,000 Medicare beneficiaries and are slated to expire at the end of next year. The Senate bill would extend the program through 2009 and apply Medicare+Choice (M+C) standards and protections to the cost contract program.

September 16, 2003 | Daily News

The American Medical Association (AMA) has joined with a professional society advocating a switch to a new coding system for diagnosis and billing and the corporation that developed the new coding standard to advocate specific legislative language on the issue for the Medicare conference report.

September 16, 2003 | Daily News

Medicare conferees are heading towards a compromise on specialty hospitals that stops short of the Senate bill's ban on physicians referring patients to new, so-called boutiques hospitals in which they have ownership stakes but goes beyond the House bill's call for further study of the issue, Sen. John Breaux (D-LA) told reporters today (Sept. 16).

Breaux, the author of the ban on physician self-referral, said he would accept a modification of his proposal but indicated some of it would survive conference.

September 15, 2003 | Daily News

Congressional Medicare conference negotiations have turned back to drug patent reform issues, with renewed debate over a House provision that would limit amendments and supplements to generic drug applications.

September 12, 2003 | Daily News

As doubt over final passage of a Medicare prescription drug benefit percolates, advocacy groups pushing hard for drug coverage have upped the ante through vocal lobbying campaigns pressing Congress for action.

AARP members descended on Washington, DC last week to pressure Congress to "keep its promise," "finish the job" and "fix and pass" the benefit. The scene was played out at two similar AARP rallies across the country.

September 12, 2003 | Daily News

As Medicare conferees take up controversial home health care provisions for the first time this week, home care advocacy groups are converging on Capitol Hill and their sympathizers in the Senate are stepping up internal lobbying efforts to get conferees to oppose the home care provisions in the House bill.

Members of the National Association of Home Care (NAHC) and the American Association for Homecare held a home health lobby day on Sept. 9. Members of the Visiting Nurse Associations of America will be lobbying on home health issues later this month as well.