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President Obama on Monday signed into law a two-year budget deal that will curb payments to new hospital-owned physician practices and extend other reimbursement cuts.
The House and the Senate last week both passed the measure, which will also suspend the country's $18.1 trillion debt limit through March 2017 and increase spending caps for domestic agencies by $50 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2016 and $30 billion during FY 2017.
Changes to payments for hospital-owned physician practices
Under the deal, beginning in 2017 Medicare will no longer pay certain hospital-owned physician practices higher rates than independently owned practices. The reimbursement changes will apply to hospital-owned physician practices acquired or opened since Monday—the date the law was signed—that are located farther than 250 yards from a hospital's main campus.
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Such facilities instead will "be eligible for reimbursements from either the Ambulatory Surgical Center ... or the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule," according to a summary of the legislation. Facilities that received hospital outpatient department (HOPD) reimbursement as of the date the law was signed will be grandfathered in under the policy.
The American Hospital Association (AHA) and the Federation of American Hospitals have both spoken out against severely limiting hospitals' ability to receive HOPD reimbursement for services furnished at off-campus facilities.
AHA EVP Thomas Nickels said in a statement, "This untested idea may endanger patient access to care, especially among patients who are sicker, the poor, minorities, and seniors who often receive care in hospital outpatient departments."
Other health care provisions
The budget agreement will lessen, but not eliminate, a premium increase for about 15 million Medicare beneficiaries. Under the measure, monthly Medicare Part B premiums will increase to about $120, rather than to $159, for roughly 30% of beneficiaries. Meanwhile, annual deductibles for all Medicare beneficiaries will increase to about $167, rather than to $223.
Further, the measure will extend a two-percentage-point reduction in Medicare payments to physicians and hospitals through the end of a 10-year budget, which will fund an estimated $25.8 billion of the deal.
The budget agreement also will:
- Eliminate an Affordable Care Act mandate that requires large companies to automatically enroll employees in health plans unless the workers opt out of the coverage; and
- Require generic drugmakers to give greater discounts to Medicaid if prices of the drugs rise more quickly than inflation (Fabian, The Hill, 11/2; Krawzak, Roll Call, 11/2).
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