President Obama will now sign into law the budget deal, passed early this morning by Congress, which creates site-neutral payments for hospital outpatient departments and independent community cancer clinics. COA supported this provision in the budget deal and worked hard in justifying it. Executive Director Ted Okon was quoted in the DC/Hill publication Inside Health Policy as saying that, “Medicare should not subsidize emergency care with a system that encourages hospitals to buy private physician practices so they can charge more for physician services.” Okon noted that congressional Medicare payment advisers recommended similar site-neutral policies. Cancer doctors are not the focus of the site-neutral measure, but oncology services are a good example of the pay disparity between hospital outpatient and physician offices, Okon said. It’s common for patients to be hit with significantly higher bills for chemotherapy from one cycle to the next because in the interim a hospital bought the practice, even though they’re receiving chemotherapy at the same office, staffed by the same providers. “It’s about time,” Okon said of the site-neutral policy.
There is a good review of the site-neutrality provision in the next story from The National Law Review in Breaking News.