ADVISORY

FROM THE COMMITTEE ON WAYS AND MEANS
Subcommittee on Health

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, Contact: (202) 225-3943
June 26, 1998
No. HL-22

 


Thomas Announces Hearing on
the Administration's Plan to Delay
Implementation of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997

Congressman Bill Thomas (R-CA), Chairman, Subcommittee on Health of the Committee on Ways and Means, announced today that the Subcommittee will hold a hearing to examine recent policy decisions by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to delay implementation of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997. The hearing will take place on Thursday, July 16, 1998, in the main Committee hearing room, 1100 Longworth House Office Building, beginning at 11:00 a.m.

In view of the limited time available to hear witnesses, oral testimony at this hearing will be from invited witnesses only. Invited witnesses will include the Administrator of the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA), Nancy-Ann Min DeParle. However, any individual or organization not scheduled for an oral appearance may submit a written statement for consideration by the Committee and for inclusion in the printed record of the hearing.

BACKGROUND:

The Balanced Budget Act of 1997 (P.L. 105-33) created the Medicare+Choice program to bring seniors more health plan choices, implement new preventive benefits, modernize Medicare's payment systems, and create new tools to fight health care waste, fraud, and abuse. These changes represent the most comprehensive reforms to the Medicare program since its inception in 1965. On June 18, 1998, HCFA released a 833 page regulation, dubbed the "Mega-Reg," which details the Medicare+Choice program.

In an internal memo dated June 11, 1998, to the Deputy Secretary of HHS, the Administrator of HCFA requested a delay in implementation of two important Balanced Budget Act provisions--the per episode home health prospective payment system and the outpatient prospective payment system--and to delay fiscal year 2000 updates for the hospital prospective payment system and for the physician fee schedule.

This revelation follows an announcement last week that the Administration was curtailing plans to distribute Medicare+Choice information booklets to 38 million beneficiaries. Instead, HCFA will distribute detailed information only to 5.5 million beneficiaries in "specific markets" -- Ohio, Florida, Arizona, Oregon, and Washington. As part of the Balanced Budget Act, the Secretary was instructed to inform all beneficiaries about their new private plan options which included Medical savings accounts, provider-sponsored organizations, private fee-for-service plans, and coordinated care plans. The Secretary was required to use a number of different means to educate America's seniors including booklets, a toll-free number, an internet website, and other forms of community outreach.

In announcing the hearing, Chairman Thomas stated: "I am very disappointed to hear of the Administration's failure to implement Balanced Budget Act changes and its plan to delay payment updates for the doctors and hospitals who care for our seniors. I am particulary troubled by the fact that the two prospective payment systems that the Administration wants to delay were originally proposed by the Administration as part of the President's fiscal year 1998 budget proposal. It's not fair to the seniors in this country to promise them more health care choices and then deny them the means to make those choices."

FOCUS OF HEARING:

Nearly a year after Congressional passage, HCFA has missed a number of deadlines in implementing the Balanced Budget Act of 1997. The hearing will focus on two key aspects of HCFA's implementation of Congressional intent:

First, the hearing will examine HCFA's delay in development of new payment systems for Medicare fee-for-service providers. Second, the hearing will examine the delay in informing seniors about their new Medicare+Choice options.

DETAILS FOR SUBMISSION OF WRITTEN COMMENTS:

Any person or organization wishing to submit a written statement for the printed record of the hearing should submit six (6) single-spaced copies of their statement along with an IBM compatible 3.5-inch diskette in WordPerfect 5.1 format, with their name, address and hearing date noted on a label, by the close of business, Thursday, July 30, 1998, to A.L. Singleton, Chief of Staff, Committee on Ways and Means, U.S. House of Representatives, 1102 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515. If those filing written statements wish to have their statements distributed to the press and interested public at the hearing, they may deliver 200 additional copies for this purpose to the Subcommittee on Health office, room 1136 Longworth House Office Building, at least one hour before the hearing begins.

FORMATTING REQUIREMENTS:

Each statement presented for printing to the Committee by a witness, any written statement or exhibit submitted for the printed record or any written comments in response to a request for written comments must conform to the guidelines listed below. Any statement or exhibit not in compliance with these guidelines will not be printed, but will be maintained in the Committee files for review and use by the Committee.

1. All statements and any accompanying exhibits for printing must be typed in single space on legal-size paper and may not exceed a total of 10 pages including attachments. At the same time written statements are submitted to the Committee, witnesses are now requested to submit their statements on a 3.5-inch diskette in WordPerfect or ASCII format.

2. Copies of whole documents submitted as exhibit material will not be accepted for printing. Instead, exhibit material should be referenced and quoted or paraphrased. All exhibit material not meeting these specifications will be maintained in the Committee files for review and use by the Committee.

3. A witness appearing at a public hearing, or submitting a statement for the record of a public hearing, or submitting written comments in response to a published request for comments by the Committee, must include on his statement or submission a list of all clients, persons, or organizations on whose behalf the witness appears.

4. A supplemental sheet must accompany each statement listing the name, full address, a telephone number where the witness or the designated representative may be reached and a topical outline or summary of the comments and recommendations in the full statement. This supplemental sheet will not be included in the printed record.

The above restrictions and limitations apply only to material being submitted for printing. Statements and exhibits or supplementary material submitted solely for distribution to the Members, the press and the public during the course of a public hearing may be submitted in other forms.

Symbol to Show Committee Seeks to Assist Persons with Disabilities at the Committee's facilities.The Committee seeks to make its facilities accessible to persons with disabilities. If you are in need of special accommodations, please call 202-225-1721 or 202-226-3411 TTD/TTY in advance of the event (four business days notice is requested). Questions with regard to special accommodation needs in general (including availability of Committee materials in alternative formats) may be directed to the Committee as noted above.