Medicare Commission folds; the proposed 10% copay lives

By MATTHEW HAY
HHBR Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON – The National Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare disbanded last week without producing any final product. But it was equally clear the positions carved out by various factions are not likely to end along with the commission’s deliberations.

Unfortunately for the home care industry, that means Sen. John Breaux’s (D-LA) proposal for a 10% copayment for home healthcare probably will resurface shortly in legislation that is likely to garner the support of many Republicans. Already, the chairmen of the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee have announced they will schedule hearings on Breaux’s proposal.

That 10% copay proposal for home health was included in a proposal developed by Breaux, who co-chaired the Commission along with House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chairman Bill Thomas (R-CA). The plan failed to win support of his fellow Democrats and fell one vote short of the 11-vote "supermajority" required by the commission’s guidelines. The final vote was 10-7. The only Democrat to support Breaux’s proposal was Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-NE).

The commission was assembled with the goal of developing long-term reforms for Medicare. The centerpiece of Breaux’s plan was the elimination of the government’s practice of paying beneficiaries’ bills directly along with the government’s role of setting prices for Medicare services.