Hospitals Ready to Help Pay for Health Care Reform

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

With health care legislation at a crossroads, the nation's hospitals are near agreement with a key lawmaker and the White House to pick up part of the cost of President Barack Obama's plan for expanded coverage, officials said Monday.
The precise size of any deal was not available, although several days ago, talks were focused in the area $155 billion over a decade. These officials said under the emerging agreement, hospitals would accept lower-than-anticipated payments under Medicare and Medicaid, the federal health care programs for seniors and the poor.
Any agreement involving Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and the White House would give fresh momentum to efforts to write bipartisan legislation on an issue that Obama has placed atop his list of domestic priorities.
Obama has said he wants to sign a bill in October that would reduce medical costs and provide coverage to nearly 50 million uninsured Americans.
Baucus and the White House reached agreement with the drug companies two weeks ago for pharmaceutical firms to spend $80 billion over a decade, divided between closing a coverage gap under Medicare and defraying part of the cost of providing health care to millions who lack it.
Last week, Wal-Mart, the nation's largest private employer, gave a boost to the White House when it announced support for a requirement on large firms to offer health coverage to their work force.
Several officials said no final agreement with the hospitals had been sealed. But they added that a formal announcement could come as early as Wednesday at the White House with Vice President Joseph Biden attending in place of Obama, who is overseas. The officials, who have been closely following the negotiations, spoke on condition of anonymity, citing the confidential nature of the discussions.
Baucus said in a brief interview last month he was negotiating with several health care industries in a search for money to cover the cost of legislation, which is expected to reach $1 trillion.
Elizabeth Lietz, a spokeswoman for the American Hospital Association, said the group is "talking with folks on health care reform, including the Finance Committee and the White House and other groups. But at this time we have nothing to report."
A spokesman at the Federation of American Hospitals declined to comment.
The nation's 624 Catholic hospitals are also involved in the discussions. A spokesman, Fred Caesar, also declined comment.
Under legislation taking shape in the House as well as the Senate, millions of uninsured Americans would receive coverage over the next few years, creating a huge new pool of customers -- and possible source of income -- for hospitals, drug companies, doctors and insurance companies. As a result, these industries are under pressure from the Obama administration and lawmakers to give up some of the fees they are currently scheduled to receive under the current system.
Hospitals, for example, receive special payments under both Medicare and Medicaid for taking care of patients who lack coverage.
The push for health care overhaul is at a critical juncture as Congress returns from a weeklong July 4 recess.
In the House, majority Democrats from three committees hope to have a combined bill ready for a vote on the floor by the end of the month.
In the Senate, two committees -- Finance and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions -- are at work on legislation that eventually will have to be merged into one.
Baucus, as chairman of the Finance Committee, has been negotiating privately for days with Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, in an attempt to reach a bipartisan agreement.
A consensus appears to hinge on creation of a compromise between the Democratic demand for a government-backed insurance plan to compete with private industry, and strong Republican refusal to accept any such arrangement.
Under the most prominent compromise under discussion, a nonprofit cooperative would be established to sell insurance, with federal start-up money.
Failing a bipartisan deal, Baucus presumably would have to go ahead with a far different, Democrats-only measure, with a stronger government-run insurance option as well as other provisions that draw GOP objections.
At the same time, the Senate Health panel is expected to wrap up work in the next several days on a companion bill that includes the government-run option. There, final details must still be worked out over one major controversy, which includes the length of protection from competition biologic drug makers should receive from new products.

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  • by Healthcare on Jul 7, 2009 at 07:40 PM
    Thanks Eric, I figured Bill was a talking head. We all know how the golden gate state is performing. Sure they want universal health they have thousands if not millions of illegals to support. I spoke today with someone that works with medical claims for a property casualty insurance company. I pointly discussed how the healthcare reform would impact their company. From their perspective the government mandates will suffocate small business and the trial lawyers are salivating. My personal physician put it best when I ask their opinion. S.S., Medicare, the U.S. Postal Service are all in trouble, what makes us think government run healthcare will be a viable program. State governments can't even pay their state employees. Yeah, I agree with my physician. The hospitals are agreeing to smaller payments, they will be subsidized by tax payers to a greater extent, thus they will make more money in the long run. A shortage of Drs. will lead to slower heathcare services.
  • by Eric Location: Norwalk on Jul 7, 2009 at 03:42 PM
    BTW, Bill is cut and pasting the same talking points argument I just read on a thread at the WSJ. Here's the link: If anyone can find the source of this Obamabot talking points arguement, please post it here.
  • by Anonymous on Jul 7, 2009 at 02:00 PM
    Like most lobbyist, the hospitals are willing to help write laws that benefit them.
  • by BOB Location: hillsdale mi on Jul 7, 2009 at 08:27 AM
    Does anyone have a choice in this matterr.Say no you many get 0.Take what you get and like it.The government says so.This all may help some,hurt others.Some one pays one way or another.AS jobs leave the states,some close and many lay off.So many have no insurances any more.If decent obs would of stayed in the states this would not be going on.Taxes would be collected,people would be working,the economy wold be going.Then again if prices would continue to rise in so many things and wages not.We'd still be in a mess.The booms of so many things,finally crashed.Greed ran it's couese.As more couldn't pay or buy,what did we expect?If the gov people are so educated,ect.Why didn't they see all this comming?Or did they?
  • by david Location: lansing michigan on Jul 7, 2009 at 08:06 AM
    To make along story shorter,doctors,hospitals,insurance companies on health,and thoes in medical programs ect will take less pay,or charge less as the government steps in and says enough is enough.No one controled prices going up and up for years.So the prices got out of control.Many couldn't afford.Still says gtreed.Pay checks just aren't going far enough,many have lost jobs and enless one is rich they don't stand a chance.Many middle class feel into proverty as proverty ones went down to worse if you can figure that out.The fixed income people,social secerity,disability social secerity,have already feel through the cracks.Hunger is felt by many and programs just aren't there any more.Medicare and medicaid is no picnic and parts of programs get cut,just causeing more health problems.Really whatever happens with this we have no control over.Don't see us voting on it.Gov is in real estate,car companies,secret projects,ect,why not insurances.We get what we get,like it or not.
  • by Healthcare reform on Jul 7, 2009 at 04:51 AM
    Here is a stunning prediction. With the baby boomer generation about to enter the medicare program the hospitals and physicians will be overwhelmed in the next 5-10 years. With more people living longer the world is going to see a significant increase in diabetes, cancer, and heart ailments. There has been talk for years that Social Security may only pay out about 70% of what was originally expected. Expect the same thing to happen to your healthcare. Will our Federal and State government keep themselves exempt from any new policies that reduce coverage? Public Service is just another legal enterprise to bilk the average consumer. Our choices are being eroded by the elites. 2010 is just around the corner.
  • by Healthcare on Jul 7, 2009 at 04:32 AM
    What makes Bill an expert on healthcare?
  • by Bill Location: Menlo Park, CA on Jul 6, 2009 at 09:13 PM
    Using government advantage is best for everybody. Nobody can collect the money to pay for health care as cheaply as the government can through a national sales tax and nobody can deliver high quality care and medications as cost effectively as the VA has for years. A civilian model of this is the best fix in a new dual public/private system. If private works keep it. For everybody else, for our physical and financial health we need change, and freeing individuals and businesses from this burden will provide the greatest stimulus ever for our economy today and forever. Public could provide: Free care and medications for everyone using public care, rich, poor, old, young, everybody that asks for it. Businesses that choose public for employees are not required to pay or be involved in health care. Costs to citizens even covering everyone Hundreds of billions less than $2.5trillion spent in 2008. Is this something for nothing socialism or good smart business?
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