Legislative: Governors Call for Medicaid Reform: Struggling to address Medicaid shortfalls that have reached crisis proportions, the House Energy and

Legislative:

Governors Call for Medicaid Reform: Struggling to address
Medicaid shortfalls that have reached crisis proportions, the House
Energy and Commerce Committee March 12 heard testimony from three
governors: Jeb Bush, R-Fla.; John Rowland, R-Conn.; and Bill
Richardson, D-N.M.

Currently on the table is a proposal from the Bush
administration, which would provide states with more flexibility to
make Medicaid coverage decisions. Short term, the proposal would
offer extra cash to states that chose the more-flexible plan but
would cap federal outlays after seven years. While Governors Bush
and Rowland generally supported the administration's proposal, Bush
expressed concerns about whether the proposal would recognize
population growth. By contrast, Governor Richardson said the
administration's plan shirks federal responsibility.

Bush Medicare Plan Could Narrow HME Playing Field, AAHomecare
Says:
In a March 3 report, The White House explained its plan
for Medicare reform. The plan would offer three coverage options to
beneficiaries: the traditional fee-for service plan, with a drug
card estimated to achieve savings of 10 to 25 percent; a
preferred-provider-type plan that would include prescription drug
benefits, preventive benefits and protection against high
out-of-pocket drug costs; and a managed-care plan that would add a
prescription drug benefit and look somewhat like the
Medicare+Choice plans currently available.

If the prescription drug benefit succeeded in luring a large
percentage of beneficiaries away from fee-for-service, the shift
could narrow the playing field for home medical equipment
providers, according to Ann Howard, director of federal policy at
the Alexandria, Va.-based American Association for Homecare.

Research:

Medicare Has Curbed Costs Better Than Private Insurers, Study
Finds:
Researchers at the Washington-based Urban Institute
— a nonpartisan organization that studies economic and social
policy — last month published a report that shows Medicare
has done a better job than have private insurers at curbing health
care costs, during the past three decades. The report, which
appeared March 11 in the journal Health Affairs, attributed
these findings to Medicare's ability to price aggressively for the
services it covers.

Noteworthy:

Accreditation Organizations Target HIPAA Compliance: The
Washington-based accreditation organization URAC March 10 issued
draft standards for security accreditation under the Health
Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, soliciting comments
through April 9. Garry Carneal, URAC's president and chief
executive officer, said the accreditation program is relevant to
all health care organizations, including covered entities and
business associates.

Later in the month, the Oakbrook Terrace, Ill.-based Joint
Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations and the
Washington-based National Committee for Quality Assurance announced
intentions to collaborate on a HIPAA accreditation program for
“business associates.” The planned program —
which JCAHO and NCQA expect to release mid May — would
evaluate the companies that handle “protected health
information” when providing goods and services to health care
providers.

U.S. Life Expectancy Increases: The U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services reports life expectancy for Americans hit
an all-time high — 77.2 years — in 2001, increasing for
men and women, whites and blacks. The annual mortality report from
HHS' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “highlights
some encouraging progress, including a continued reduction in death
rates from the nation's three leading killers — heart
disease, cancer and stroke,” said HHS Secretary Tommy
Thompson.

For breaking news, go to www.homecaremonday.com, the electronic news service
of the home medical equipment industry.