House Committees Wrangle With Medicare Legislation

The House Energy & Commerce Committee struggled last week with legislation that the House Ways & Means Committee approved late Thursday. The two committees share jurisdiction over public health-insurance programs.

The bill, H.R. 3162, reauthorizes the Children's Health Insurance Program, and, of interest to HMEs, requires that oxygen users assume ownership of their oxygen equipment after 13 months in the Energy & Commerce bill and after 18 months in the version passed by Ways & Means. Facing opposition by committee Republicans who object to the bill's spending, Energy & Commerce Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) kept his committee in session late Friday by ordering the 500-page document to be read aloud. The committee adjourned without taking action.

Since the bill has already emerged from Ways & Means, it could proceed straight to the full House for a vote next week.

The legislation reauthorizes the existing state-administered Children's Health Insurance Program, which expires at the end of September. The bill also makes various changes to Medicare designed to shore up the trust fund, improve seniors' benefits and protect their ability to choose their own doctors. Industry lobbyists, disappointed that the bill didn't include the provisions of the Tanner-Hobson bill that would put the national competitive-bidding program on hold, nevertheless worked against provisions that would further cut provider-reimbursements for oxygen and power wheelchairs.

This article originally appeared in the July 2007 issue of HME Business.

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