Budget Debate Could Center on Funds for Kids’ Insurance
The state children's health insurance program "is emerging as the health flashpoint in Congress," as Democratic lawmakers maintain that the funds for SCHIP included in the budget proposal are inadequate, CongressDaily reports (Johnson , CongressDaily, 2/12).
Democratic lawmakers, who proposed a $15 billion increase in annual funds for SCHIP, have cited a Congressional Research Service report released last week that found state SCHIP programs will have a combined $12.1 billion deficit from FY 2008 to FY 2012 without revisions to eligibility requirements.
In addition, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that state SCHIP programs will have a combined $14.6 billion deficit by FY 2012.
CMS officials have said that the estimates are inaccurate (Johnson , CongressDaily, 2/12).
House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee Chair Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) said, "The bottom line is that if you want to cover a large group of uninsured, and you want to do it effectively, this SCHIP is the best way to do it." Pallone added that he plans to examine state SCHIP formulas as part of the legislation to reauthorize the program.
Committee ranking member Joe Barton (R-Texas) said that legislation to reauthorize SCHIP should require state programs to use state funds to enroll beneficiaries who do not meet certain eligibility requirements. Barton said that some states have "abused" SCHIP through expansions of their programs to children and adults with annual incomes much higher than the poverty level. "There's going to be a real fight over this," Barton said (Johnson , CongressDaily, 2/12).
Health industry leaders maintain that proposed reductions in Medicare reimbursements to hospitals and nursing homes included in the budget proposal "threaten to chip away at the quality of patient care," the Sioux Falls Argus Leader reports.
American Hospital Association President Rich Umbdenstock said that the budget proposal would "inflict real damage on hospitals' ability to care for these patients" (Sioux Falls Argus Leader, 2/11).
The Greater New York Hospital Association and the 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East union plan to launch a campaign against the proposed reductions in Medicare reimbursements that would include advertisements in the districts of important lawmakers. Officials for the group and union said that they have not decided when the campaign will begin or which lawmakers they will target (Pérez-Pena, New York Times, 2/13).
The budget proposal would reduce funds for health care for veterans by 2% in FY 2009 and would freeze funds at that level from FY 2010 through FY 2012, although the cost of health care for veterans continues to increase, the AP/St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. The budget proposal would increase funds for health care for veterans by 9% in FY 2008.
House Appropriations Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Subcommittee Chair Chet Edwards (D-Texas) said, "Either the administration is willingly proposing massive cuts in VA health care, or its promise of a balanced budget by 2012 is based on completely unrealistic assumptions."
White House Office of Management and Budget spokesperson Sean Kevelighan said that the proposed reduction and subsequent freeze in funds for health care for veterans "don't reflect any policy decisions." He added, "We'll revisit them when we do the (future) budgets" (AP/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2/13).
Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) in a recent interview on PBS' "Charlie Rose" discussed provisions in the budget proposal related to Medicare, Medicaid, NIH and other programs. In addition, the segment includes a discussion on the health insurance proposal recently announced by Democratic presidential candidate former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) (Rose, "Charlie Rose," PBS, 2/9).
Video of the segment is available online.