BUDGET: Congress Sets Aside Funds for Drug Coverage
Congress approved a $1.8 trillion budget and tax cut plan yesterday, setting aside $40 billion for Medicare reform and a prescription drug benefit, the Washington Post reports. Two-thirds of the budget will go toward Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and interest on the national debt. NIH also will receive "substantial increases." The Republican plan calls for at least $150 billion in tax cuts through FY 2005 (Pianin, 4/14). Hoping to capitalize on the budget agreement, Republicans "have set an ambitious schedule to complete 13 appropriations bills." House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) said that he wants "swift action" on the Education, Labor and HHS spending bill. But the Wall Street Journal reports that "the overall spending limits are so severe that the GOP could face another summer of turmoil on routine bills that fund government programs" (VandeHei/Rogers, 4/14). President Clinton blasted the Republican-engineered budget: "This year, from Capitol Hill to the campaign trail, we are hearing positive statements about investing in health care, in prescription drug coverage, in education. But after a trillion dollar tax cut ... there will be no room left for these investments, or for saving Social Security and Medicare, unless we are prepared to go back to the bad old days of deficits." Clinton argued that Congress should follow his plan of using part of the interest savings from the national debt to shore up Medicare and Social Security (Stevenson, New York Times, 4/14).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.