Washington Briefs

Proprietary Schools Seek Liaison Like Black, Hispanic Colleges
WASHINGTON — Black colleges, Hispanic-serving institutions, tribal colleges and community colleges all have their liaisons within the U.S. Education Department. Now for-profit trade schools are seeking representation as well.
The education department is nearing the appointment of a special liaison for proprietary schools, a proposal Congress included in the 1998 Higher Education Act Amendments. For-profit schools are hoping to locate their liaison in the Office of Post-Secondary Education, the office that sets higher education policy.
“That’s where the laws and regulations originate,” says Omer Waddles, a former congressional aide who now serves as executive vice president of ITT Educational Services, an Indianapolis-based company with 67 schools in 28 states.
Black colleges have their representatives attached to that office, a department spokeswoman said, while community and tribal college liaisons are in the education department’s Office of Vocational and Adult Education. The representative for Hispanic-serving institutions is in the Office of Intergovernmental and Interagency Affairs, the spokeswoman says.
The proprietary sector had hoped for the appointment of a liaison last year but believes action is likely soon.
“We’ve seen some movement, and the issue is on their radar screen,” says Bruce Leftwich, vice president of the Career College Association in Washington, D.C. “It’s clearly on ours.”
The liaisons within the department serve not only as points of contact for their institutions inside government but also participate in high-level discussions on education policy.
The liaison issue was one of several high-profile examples of the growing influence of trade schools during the 1998 Higher Education Act reauthorization. Congress also passed a change that requires these schools to obtain only 10 percent of their revenues from sources other than federal financial aid. The old law required the schools to get at least 15 percent of revenue from other sources.
Congress also voted to include the for-profit sector in its standard definition of “higher education institution,” which advocates say will help the schools when seeking access to other federal funds and tax credits.


Teaching Hospitals Spared Additional Medicare Cuts

WASHINGTON — Hospitals treating some of the nation’s neediest patients will be spared billions of dollars in Medicare cuts by the Clinton administration, officials said last month.
Hospitals in Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, Oregon, Tennessee and Vermont are affected. Altogether, the cuts could have meant some $2 billion over five years, officials said.
First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is mounting a run for the Senate in New York, has been among those pushing for money to be restored to struggling teaching hospitals. New York’s teaching hospitals train more doctors than any other state and serve some of the state’s poorest residents.
The dispute stemmed from confusion over who counts as a Medicaid patient. Hospitals handling a large share of low-income and often uninsured patients are reimbursed for the care in Medicare payments. The reimbursement is based on a complicated formula that includes Medicaid caseload.
Federal officials said some states had been counting certain people erroneously. Hospital officials said they thought they had been following the law.
Hospitals were initially told they would have to repay the extra $1 billion they had received in Medicare overpayments but that changed in October due, in part, to a vigorous lobbying effort by New York Sens. Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Charles Schumer as well as Rep. Charles Rangel. Mrs. Clinton sat in on a meeting the New Yorkers had with top officials at the White House.
The agreement reached last month with Health and Human Service Secretary Donna Shalala means that the funding system will stay the same so that the hospitals will not see a sudden dip in their Medicare payments.   



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