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Senate Acts to Press Medicare on Lag in N.J. Comp Settlements

The U.S. Senate has passed a bill to force Medicare to release data and give explanation as to why it has stalled settlements to thousands of in jured workers in New Jersey and on a national scale.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) added the legislation as an amendment to the Health and Human Appropriations Act.

Lautenberg said, "Workers who are hurt on the job rely on these payments for medical expenses and to get their lives back on track. Medicare needs to provide information to Congress immediately on the number and length of these delays so we can determine the best way to end them and get workers the settlements they need and deserve."

The vote came two weeks after The Star-Ledger reported that delays in reviews by Medicare has stalled settlements in around 3,700 workers compensation cases in New Jersey. The backlog has gone down from a high of 5,000 cases last year, but officials say the Medicare delays are still causing chaos in the workers compensation system.

Since 2001, Medicare has been reviewing workers compensation settlements to be certain that the federal program has not been charged for medical treatment, the workers compensation insurance should cover.

Federal officials persist they have gotten control of the problems, and that the majority of delays take place because attorneys file unfinished paperwork for the agency's assessment.

In a letter to Rep. John Tanner (D-Tenn.), sponsor of legislation that would let off many workers compensation settlements from the federal review, Herb B. Kuhn, acting deputy administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said Medicare has recovered $570 million from insurance companies through the review program since 2005.

Kuhn said properly submitted cases are cleared normally in 34 days, and stated that the agency has "continuously improved its policy and procedures."

Lautenberg's budget amendment would give Medicare 30 days to report to Congress' budget committees on the volume of cases in anticipation of review.



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