MedPAC says Medicare payments 'still adequate'

Now here's an assertion that might raise a few hackles. According to Glenn Hackbarth, chairman of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC), Medicare payments are still "adequate to cover the costs of efficient hospitals." He's not in favor of an across-the-board increase of Medicare payments, despite the fact that average Medicare margins for hospitals are projected to be negative-6.9 percent in 2009, compared with negative-5.9 percent in 2007.

Hackbarth, who spoke before the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, was confronted by Rep. Wally Herger (R-CA), who argues that Medicare is underpaying hospitals and physicians, leaving private insurance to make up the difference.

But Hackbarth didn't budge. He noted said that MedPAC research demonstrates that hospitals under the greatest financial pressure manage to contain costs and increase Medicare margins, while hospitals with the highest levels of private payments and the most non-Medicare sources of income have the lowest Medicare margins. (It sounds as though he's suggesting that hospitals who can't make a buck on Medicare are, more or less, fat and lazy, the way I read it.)

Find out more about MedPAC's recommendations:
- read this Modern Healthcare piece (reg. req.)

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