HOUSE PASSES HULSHOF PROVISION THAT BENEFITS RURAL HOSPITALS
The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006, which includes a provision inserted by Congressman Kenny Hulshof (MO-09) that will positively impact rural hospitals. Hulshof's clause helps ensure that these hospitals can continue to provide important surgical services to patients without disruption, increased costs and additional administrative burdens.
"This bill ensures that hospitals, especially those serving rural areas, can continue to rely on independent laboratories to provide surgical pathology services without disruption," Hulshof said. "If Congress fails to approve this extension, costs will go up and that would result in an additional administrative burden for these hospitals who are already facing tight budgets."
The bill passed by the House allows Medicare to continue to make direct payments to independent laboratories for surgical pathology services provided to hospital patients. Failure to act this year would force independent labs to seek payment from hospitals that would receive no new funds from Medicare to pay for these essential medical services.
For patients this could mean limited access to surgical services and state-of-the-art testing.
Congress included in the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 a "grandfather" provision that would require Medicare, under certain conditions, to continue to make direct payments to independent laboratories. However, the "grandfather" will expire at the end of this year, leaving providers out on a limb. This bill makes the "grandfather" permanent so that independent laboratories and hospitals have the stability they need to maintain services vital to seniors.
"The Technical Component (TC) Grandfather one year extension is extremely helpful to the multiple hospitals our independent laboratory serves in Missouri, many in Congressman Hulshof's district," said Dr. Jeff Craver, president of the Missouri Society of Pathologists. "The bill prevents the hospitals from the costly endeavor of building in-house histology laboratories or having to pay independent labs for services they have not included in their budgets for 2007. Boyce and Bynum Pathology Laboratories, P.C., independent laboratories throughout the U.S. and the hospitals they serve are most grateful to Congressman Hulshof for his steadfast support of this important issue."
This legislation has the support of the American Hospital Association, the College of American Pathologists, National Rural Health Association and the American Clinical Laboratory Association. The bill now moves on to the Senate where it is expected to be considered in the near future.
"I commend Congressman Hulshof for championing this legislation that will provide hospitals and independent labs the stability they need to maintain surgical diagnostic services vital to Medicare beneficiaries," said James Miller, MD, FCAP, St. Louis. "Without this legislation, small and rural hospitals will be hard-pressed to continue to provide these services as they have in the past."