A spokesman for Louisiana Health Care Review, the state’s Medicare quality improvement organization, says the group is watching closely to see what happens with a provision in President Barack Obama’s proposed budget that called for reducing Medicare payments to hospitals and insurance plans to help create a $634 billion “down payment” for major health care reform.
Bob Johannessen, LHCR’s corporate director of communications, says anytime there’s talk of cutting payments “that’s going to cause quite a bit of concern.” Reimbursements for Medicare, the federal program for the elderly, are widely considered too low already. Reimbursements for Medicaid, the federal/state program for the poor and disabled, would also be affected. “We believe that the analysts are correct in that the devil certainly is going to be in the details as this moves forward,” Johannessen says.
Both the budget proposal and stimulus package make improving health care quality a priority — by recognizing that improvements to quality are possible through the expansion of health information technology, including electronic patient records, he says. Once put into place, those changes will lower the price of health care or keep it from rising so quickly, Johannessen says. Meanwhile, the entire health care community will watch the budget process nervously — always the case when the subject is health care reform.
“It is initially and certainly the first foray into what the next budget will look like,” Johannessen says. “Ultimately it’s going to be the debate that occurs in Congress that shapes the final outcome.”—Steve Clark