Rockefeller continues drive to expand MedPAC authority

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Sen. John Rockefeller IV (D-WV), chairman of the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Health, Thursday continued advocating for a stronger role for the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC). He framed Medicare as the "800-pound gorilla" of healthcare reform.

"We need to take the bold but relatively simple step of elevating the already well-respected Medicare Payment Advisory Commission," the senator wrote in an opinion piece for

Rockefeller suggested that the best way to rein in healthcare costs is to turn over control of Medicare payment rates, currently controlled by Congress, to an independent panel in the executive branch of government. By giving that authority to MedPAC, Rockefeller says the "special interests" that influence Congress will have no say in payment rates and Medicare costs can be more effectively contained. President Barack Obama recently announced a similar plan of his own, which would transfer control of Medicare payment rates to the Independent Medicare Advisory Council, or IMAC. Under Rockefeller's proposal, Congress would still have final say over Medicare, barring a constitutional amendment, he said.

MedPAC, in its role as a legislative advisory body, has issued payment recommendations to Congress. But Congress has frequently ignored them. MedPAC in January recommended a freeze in payment rates for skilled nursing facilities and cuts to home-health services. (McKnight's, 1/12/09)