In spite of a flurry of activity by subcommittees in both houses of Congress yesterday, the hospital cost control measure that the Carter administration hoped to have in place this year appears unlikely to be enacted before Congress adjourns this fall.
President Carter late Tuesday wrote the chairman of the four subcommitteess concerned with the legislation to remind them that "one of my most important priorities is to secure strong legislation to restrain the sky-rocketing increase in healt care costs."
Carter said he was writing to "reaffirm my strong personal commitment to the administration's hospital cost containment legislation."
The bill, which would place a limit on the amount hospitals could increase their charges annually, has been stalled for months in two of the four subcommittees that must act on it.
Although the House Interstate and Foreign Commerce Health and the Environment Subcommittee has been holding markup sessions on the bill since Congress returned from its summer recess last month, the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee repeatedly failed until yesterday to gather the necessary quorum to take up the bill.
In the Ways and Means subcommittee, competition with the administration's energy bill, Social Security and welfare revision proposals combined with a lack of enthusiasm among members for the hospital cost control bill ot prevent progress.
Subcommittee Chairman Dan Rosenkowski (D-Ill.) said yesterday he would like to have a bill for consideration by the Ways and Means Committee before the recess "or when Congress resumes next year," depending upon how long Congress stays in session.
Rep. Paul G. Rogers (D-Fla.), chairman of the Commerce subcommittee, said he thinks it is possible for Congress to enact the bill if it stays in session until mid-November.
Administration officials also continued to hold out the possibility of passage before adjournment. Rogers said he hopes to have his subcommittee compelte action this week.
Rostenkowski, however, remained doubtful. "I'm not going to push my subcommittee," he said. "When we report out a bill, we're going to know what's in it."
The Senate Finance Health Subcommittee held its first hearing on the administration proposal yesterday. The Department of Health, Education and Welfare, according to an informed source, is considering modifying the bill to meet objections held by Sen. Herman E. Talmadge (D-Ga.) the subcommittee chairman.
The Senate Human Resources Committee approved its own version of the bill in August. One knowlegeable Senate source said yesterday that it would be difficult, even under the best circumstances, for the bill to be enacted before the Senate recesses.
HEW officials have begun preliminary steps toward meeting Carter's commitment to have a proposal for national health insurance ready for Congress early next year. It is widely believed, however, that no national health insurance proposal can be enacted without some form of cost control preceding it. Without cost containment, Rostenkowski said yesterday, "there's no way you're going to have national health insurance."