Senate committee advances health spending bill with funds for Medicare appeals

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A massive $161.9 billion health and education appropriations bill approved by a Senate subcommittee yesterday includes more than $100 million in funds to help address the backlog of Medicare claims appeals.

The bill, approved by the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Subcommittee, includes funding boosts for FY 2017 in the fields of labor, health and education.  

Among the health appropriations is a $5 million increase in funding to the Office of Medicare Hearings and Appeals aimed at easing the backlog of Medicare claims appealed to the office.

The total number of cases appealed to OMHA has increased 1,000% over the past six years, the appropriations committee said in a press release. At the end of last year the office took nearly 700 days to close out each existing appeal. The committee attributed a large portion of the backlog to appeals related to Recovery Audit Contractors.

The bill also eliminates funding for the Independent Payment Advisory Board, allocates $152.6 million for rural health programs and puts $1.39 billion toward Alzheimer's disease research.