Around this time of year, many Congressional advisory committees start circulating their ideas of major recommendation reports.  The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (or MedPac) is no different.  It was reported recently that MedPac sent a balloon up, testing the atmosphere for a recommendation that Medicare payments stay where they are for skilled nursing facilities throughout 2009.  This means no new payment updates until FY 2010. 

Take a breath.

Now, take another one. 

I’ve been giving these two pieces of advice to people all day.  I mention MedPac’s possible recommendation to Congress, and my administrative staff starts teeth-clenching. 

The merits of MedPac’s recommendation are up to not inconsiderable debate.  And, this would not be the first time such a recommendation has been discussed in the pre-report phase.  (FYI, MedPac’s two major reports are released in March and July each year).  What surprised me as I discussed this news with colleagues was how little understood healthcare legislation seems to be.  MedPac reports are a major component of the Medicare legislation package, but those I spoke with had only a faint notion of what MedPac is — usually just a vague memory of once hearing the name.   

I’m not sure if my facility is typical in this regard, but my guess is that it must be.  Even though two of my administrative nurses are Nursing Practice Act fiends (i.e. they review/discuss every proposed change) my staff in general is not keyed in to the political nature of their profession.  This is completely understandable; health care training is focused on the care, not the business side of things.  This is only right, but public health financing is a topic my residents and their families obviously care about.  As a profession, we should strive to educate ourselves to at least be conversant in the operation of health care legislation — if for no other reason than to be able to discuss it with patients.