President Carter's plan to bring hospital costs under control passed its first hurdle yesterday when a Senate committee voted even tougher limits on hospital and medical spending than he proposed.
The Carter proposal for an approximate 9 per cent limit on annual increases in hospital revenues was adopted 9 to 3 in somewhat altered form by the Senate Human Resources Committee.
Health, Education and Welfare Secretary Joseph A. Califano Jr. called the committee action "a dramatic first step toward checking the reckless increases" that have seen hospital costs rising by 15 per cent yearly.
But the cost control plan must still be acted on by the Senate Finance and the House Ways and Means and Commerce committees. In none of these three has it even emerged from health subcommittees.
This makes it virtually sure that no controls could go into effect by Oct. 1, the President's target date.
The version passed yesterday - shaped largely by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and his health subcommittee staff - would add two important provisions to the administration plan.
One is a proposed two-year moratorum on hospital building or expansion except in states that adopt statewide plans providing for such expansion. The administration had proposed limiting such building to $2.5 billion worth in the two years, a sharp reduction from an expected $7 billion worth without a lid.
Yesterday's version would also prevent doctors from adding equipment worth more than $150.000 to their offices without state health planning agency approval.
The committee bill would also:
Force hospitals to make financial statements including profits and losses in all departments, available to consumers as well as to the HEW Secretary.
Attempt to discourage private hospitals from transferring or "dumping" nonpaying patients into public hospitals.
Allow hospitals to increase rates and revenues by more than 9 per cent if agreements with nonsupervisory, low-income workers call for larger wage boosts. Unions have persuaded the administration to accept this compromise, even though it and other exceptions might raise the limit on revenues to 10 to 11 per cent.
President Carter in April said hospital cost controls coula save $2 billion the first year. He called this start on health cost control essential if the nation is to afford adequate national health insurance.