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Medicare to hike hospital outpatient rates

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WASHINGTON, Aug 10, 2004 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- Medicare plans to increase payments to U.S. hospitals for outpatient services by 6.6 percent and reduce co-payments for its senior beneficiaries.

The payment hikes represent a combination of a 3.3 percent inflation adjustment and extra money that will go to hospitals as a result of changes required by the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, which created a prescription drug benefit in the health insurance program for the elderly and disabled.

The changes will be published as a proposed rule in the Aug. 16 Federal Register.

The increases raise the total Medicare will pay in 2004 for outpatient services from $22.7 billion to $24.2 billion.

The proposed rule also calls for reducing the co-payment for outpatient services from 50 percent of the total payment to 45 percent. The new Medicare law will reduce co-pays over time until all services have a rate of 20 percent of the total payment.

Copyright 2004 by United Press International.


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