Senate Finance Committee Chairman Lloyd Bentsen (D-Tex.) warned the administration yesterday that any proposal for another round of cuts in Medicare over the next five years would be unacceptable and would violate last year's budget deal between President Bush and Congress.
"We can't help to solve our national health problems by whacking Medicare year after year," Bentsen said.
He also said it had "become clear" that the administration "will probably not send any major health reform legislation to Congress this year." He said he will shortly hold hearings on health coverage -- more than 30 million Americans have no health insurance -- and the "squeeze" facing middle-class Americans with burgeoning insurance premiums.
Bentsen's remarks to the American Hospital Association came as the AHA, at its annual membership meeting here, released a report saying that hospitals lost $8.9 billion in 1989 on charity and other uncompensated care and also lost $4.3 billion on treating Medicaid patients because Medicaid pays hospitals only 78 percent of actual treatment costs.
In discussing reports that Bush's forthcoming budget will seek a $20 billion cut in Medicare outlays to doctors, hospitals and other providers of medical services, Bentsen said, "I was under the clear impression that further cuts in Medicare were not going to be on the table this year. I thought we had a deal."
On another Medicare budget issue, sources said the Office of Management and Budget has approved release of $75 million of the $101.3 million in extra administrative funds sought by Medicare for this year to avoid delays in reimbursements to beneficiaries, hospitals and doctors.