Posted: Friday, October 20, 2000

Bill offers faster health care reimbursement

WASHINGTON - Congress has approved legislation that would speed reimbursements for Medicare and Medicaid to Native health care providers.

The U.S. House passed a Senate bill Tuesday sponsored by Sen. Frank Murkowski that does away with a middleman federal agency. The Indian Health Service no longer will handle Medicaid and Medicare payments if President Clinton agrees.

Instead, the Native nonprofits, in the case of Medicare, will bill the federal Department of Health and Human Services directly. For Medicaid, the non-profits would bill the state Department of Health and Social Services, which handles the federal program in Alaska.

Murkowski said a pilot program involving the Bristol Bay Health Corp. and the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Corp. cut reimbursement times to an average of one month from a previous average of four to nine months.

All Alaska Natives qualify for free health care from the Indian Health Service, regardless of income or age. But the Indian Health Service has been routing the bills to Medicaid and Medicare administrators for Natives who are low-income or older than 65.

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