NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 13, 2007

Despite promises by Congress to end the secrecy of earmarks and other pet projects, the House of Representatives has quietly funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to specific hospitals and health care providers under a bill passed this month to help low-income children, says the New York Times.

Lawmakers did not identify the beneficiary hospitals by name, instead describing them in cryptic terms, so that identifying a beneficiary is like solving a riddle, say the Times.  For example:

  • The bill will allow one hospital -- straddling the border between Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan -- to receive increased Medicare payments by assuming that it is in Chicago, where Medicare rates are set to cover substantially higher wages for hospital workers.
  • In addition, the bill gives special treatment to two hospitals in Kingston, N.Y., stipulating that Medicare should pay them as if they were in New York City, 80 miles away.
  • Overall, the Times found that the bill would direct millions of dollars a year to about 40 favored hospitals, by increasing their Medicare payments.

Some Republicans have complained about what they call "hospital pork," says the Times. Representative Pete Sessions, Republican of Texas, said the bill was "littered with earmarks for hospital-specific projects."

"Every hospital in America would like to be reclassified" into a labor market with higher wages because it would then receive more money from Medicare," added Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), the senior Republican on the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health.

Source: Robert Pear, "Select Hospitals Reap a Windfall Under Child Bill," New York Times, August 12, 2007.

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