Hurricane Katrina may stall pay-for-performance legislation

Author: Carrie Morantz
Date: Oct 15, 2005

Congress has largely set aside its earlier legislative calendar to grapple with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, confirmation proceedings for U.S. Supreme Court chief justice nominee John Roberts, Jr., and other time-sensitive issues, according to Kevin Burke, director of the American Academy of Family Physicians' (AAFP's) Division of Government Relations. As a result, Congress may end up gathering spending and legislative priorities into an omnibus appropriations bill that would address funding requirements for poor and disaster-displaced patients but would defer or delete funds for programs that don't affect that population directly. Bills containing pay-for-performance and health information technology provisions are likely to come up next year if they are not tackled this year. Two bills are at the forefront: the Medicare Value-Based Purchasing for Physicians' Services Act (H.R. 3617) and the Wired for Health Care Quality Act (S. 1418). "The key to watch is the budget reconciliation process," said Burke. "In the midst of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the discussion will be very charged. There's no definite direction--some legislators will focus on cutting the federal budget, while others will concentrate on improving financial support for programs that assist disaster victims. In between are the long-term funding issues that we've worked so hard on: Title VII (funding for family medicine training through Section 747 of Title VII of the Public Health Service Act), funding for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), and, of course, reform of the formula governing Medicare payments to physicians."

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