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Health systems still attempting to delay new Medicaid rules; Deadline pushed back

By Staff | May 23, 2008

Sunday’s deadline for Lee Memorial Health System’s effort to delay new Medicaid rules has been extended to Aug. 1 by the Department of Health and Human Services.

For some time Lee Memorial and other health systems across the country have been trying to extend a one-year moratorium on new Medicaid rules that would result in the local hospital system losing $24 million and other public hospitals more than $50 billion nationwide.

Mike Leavitt, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, recently announced that the rules mandated to public hospitals by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services would be delayed until August.

Before the announcement, Lee Memorial was working with other hospital systems to delay the new rules for an additional year by placing a moratorium in the language of an Iraq war appropriations bill, believing that this would protect the legislation from being vetoed by President George Bush.

The Associated Press reported Thursday afternoon that the U.S. Senate had passed its version of the appropriations bill 75-22. Besides providing more than $165 billion in funding to military operations overseas, it included other domestic add-ons such as support for veterans and the unemployed.

According to Sally Jackson, community relations director for the Lee Memorial Health System, the appropriations bill included all seven of the rules that would narrow the definition of a “government provider,” which is specifically damaging to Lee Memorial because it is a special district without a tax base.

Jackson is optimistic that the U.S. House will pass the bill on June 2, after the Memorial Day recess.

“The House will act on it, the terms are very similar,” said Jackson. “What will likely happen is that a bill very similar to the Senate’s version will go to president.”

Bush, on the other hand, is likely to veto the bill because it contains many domestic add-ons that the administration opposes, Jackson said.

“They may or may not have enough votes to override his veto,” she said. “This is another positive step to show Congress is very supportive of limiting these rules such that we are not handicapped in funding for this important program.”

Even though Lee Memorial and others have until August to deal with extending a delay on the Medicaid rules, a judge in a Washington, D.C., federal court has vowed to submit an opinion on a lawsuit against the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services by today.

Hospital officials speculate that the department’s decision to delay the deadline until Aug. 1 is a tactic to have the judge forget about a ruling that the government had violated the court-ordered moratorium when it instituted five additional Medicaid rules.

When the moratorium was first applied against two of the rules, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services subsequently released five more that the judge determined were in violation of the moratorium.

“This is tactic on their part to influence the ultimate decision by the judge, based on their delay in implementation,” said Jackson.