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Congress: At odds over rural Medicare

Aug. 26, 2003 at 10:41 AM

WASHINGTON, Aug. 26 (UPI) -- A sticking point in Medicare negotiations is a $25 billion plan to raise Medicare reimbursements for rural health-care providers over the next 10 years.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and House Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas, R-Calif., have been at odds over the provision.

Grassley fears Thomas is stalling to gain leverage in the larger debate over modernizing the health-insurance program, the Wall Street Journal reported.

"It's less likely that these items will get the attention they deserve with every day that goes by," Jill Kozeny, Grassley's press secretary told the Journal. "Chairman Grassley wants to make sure the conference doesn't speed down a one-lane Medicare superhighway without stopping, or even slowing down, for rural America."

Thomas' office said the money involved is too much to be resolved by staff now. "The bigger dollar amounts, our members want to deal with directly," said John McManus, Thomas's top health aide.

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