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Life Health > Health Insurance

On the Third Hand: Medicare delays bill

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Members of the House are getting ready to consider S. 1347, a Medicare standards delay bill, through the “suspension calendar” process later this week.

The bill would help insurers with Medicare Advantage plans with low ratings by giving them more time before Medicare chases them out of the program.

The bill would give doctors and hospitals that have trouble getting an electronic health record (EHR) system up and running more time before Medicare “adjusts their payments” downward.

See also: Intel executive: Let my health records go

On the one hand, Congress may really have imposed impractical standards on Medicare plans and providers. Maybe members of Congress are wise to ride to the affected insurers’ and providers’ rescue.

On the other hand, Congress does seem to be giving off the impression that it has some combination of a hard time setting realistic standards for government program vendors and a difficulty with saying no to government program vendor lobbyists.

The House uses the suspension calendar process to rush noncontroversial bills through a vote without actually having to record a vote. The Senate passed S. 1347 through a similar fast-track process in August.

That kind of fast-track process might be appropriate for naming a post office or naming the official national reptile, but it looks as if maybe Congress is fast-tracking this particular bill because members of Congress lack the spine to explain in public to consumers, and the health policy community, why some consumers’ and health policy players’ expectations were unrealistic, or to insurers and providers why (if lawmakers believe this to be the case) some insurers’ and providers’ efforts have been inadequate.

See also: Health Reform II: Lawmakers Eye Medicare Payment System

Maybe it would be good if lawmakers took some personal responsibility for a Medicare standards delay bill like S. 1347 and actually had to vote for or against it.

On the third hand, maybe the lack of a roll call vote on the bill is just Congress’s way of admitting that it’s fallen and it can’t get up, and that the people counting on Medicare to make good on its commitments more than a few years in the future are pretty much on their own.

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