Medicare bills offer providers relief

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Monday, December 31, 2001

WASHINGTON - The House of Representatives passed two bills last month intended to lighten Medicare's regulatory burden on providers, but don't look for immediate ratification on either.

At the moment, the Senate has a more pressing issue on its plate, an economic stimulus package, and probably won't get to Medicare until sometime in early to mid-2002, say industry watchers.

"I think the Medicare regulatory reform legislation is great, and a lot of the stuff in there are things we have been asking for as an industry for a long time," said Asela Cuervo, AAHomecare's v.p. of governmental affairs. "But the common wisdom is that there will be no legislation on Medicare this year."

In a 408 to 0 vote, the House passed a bill last month that would extend the compliance date for the HIPAA transaction standards from Oct. 16, 2002, to Oct 16, 2003. The bill also eliminated language in the original bill that would have charged providers $1 per claim if they did not file electronically.

In another unanimous vote, lawmakers passed the "Medicare Regulatory and Contracting Reform Act of 2001." This bill would require federal officials to issue new rules only once a month, and to give providers at least 30 days to come into compliance with new regulations.

The bill wouldn't hold providers responsible for errors made by following incorrect written information provided by Medicare officials, would allow providers to delay providing refunds of disputed overpayments until after the first level of appeal and to pay back overpayments over three years in some cases. It would also set limits on CMS using extrapolation during audits. HME

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