109th Congress Expected To Address Several Health Care Issues
CQ Today on Friday highlighted some health care debates expected in the 109th Congress. Summaries appear below.
- Limiting medical malpractice liability for physicians is the favored method of President Bush to keep "skyrocketing" health care expenses down and "will likely pass the House," CQ Today reports, "but the challenge will lie in persuading the Senate not to block such proposals." Although some Democratic senators, including Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.), might be open to compromise, Republicans must "persuade some skeptical members of their own party," such as Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and Michael Crapo (R-Idaho), in order to overcome another Democratic filibuster, CQ Today reports.
- Lawmakers also may try to control health costs down by reforming the system used to calculate drug prices for Medicaid. The HHS inspector general has said Medicaid drug payments are inflated, and the House Energy and Commerce Committee is calling for revisions to the system now in place, which bases prices on data provided by drug companies. Pharmacies are expected to oppose revisions to the formula "unless they are compensated with higher payments for other services," according to CQ Today.
- Congress also is expected to address intergovernmental transfers between state and county entities, which critics say overstate the amount of state spending on Medicaid. House Energy and Commerce Chair Joe Barton (R-Texas) plans to hold hearings on overhauling Medicaid, but the Senate "is likely to resist any wholesale changes to the program," as are governors, CQ Today reports.
- Lawmakers could try to reduce Medicare payments to some health care providers to fund other legislative initiatives, despite higher payments approved by Congress in the 2003 Medicare drug law. Some Republicans and lobbyists have indicated that cuts "may be in store for some providers, such as hospitals, while payments could be increased for doctors," CQ Today reports.
- Legislators will "scrutinize" implementation of the Medicare law, which will begin offering drug coverage to more than 40 million Medicare beneficiaries in 2006, according to CQ Today.
- Democrats plan to pursue legislation to legalize prescription drug reimportation, although the Bush administration has "expressed concern" about drug safety, CQ Today reports.
- Methods to expand health coverage "may be debated," with Republicans favoring tax credits for individuals to buy health insurance, CQ Today reports. Some Republicans also favor an expansion of health savings accounts and approving association health plans.
- Social conservatives will support efforts to enact restrictions on abortion services, possibly including a measure that would make it illegal to avoid state parental consent laws and take a pregnant minor across state lines for an abortion, CQ Today reports. Another debate could arise over a provision in the fiscal year 2005 omnibus spending bill that expanded restrictions on federal funding for abortions. The provision, written by Rep. Dave Weldon (R-Fla.), prohibits states and cities from receiving federal funds if they require health insurers or medical providers to offer, fund or refer patients for abortion services (Adams, CQ Today, 1/7).