Budget Reconciliation Delayed One Week To Consider Additional Cuts
House leaders on Tuesday delayed the fiscal year 2006 budget reconciliation deadline until Oct. 28 to give authorizing committees time to reach a new target of $50 billion in savings from mandatory programs, including Medicaid, CQ Today reports.
The delay follows House Speaker Dennis Hastert's (R-Ill.) proposed amendment to the 2006 budget resolution -- announced on Oct. 6 -- which would increase mandatory program cuts from $35 billion to $50 billion. The Senate so far has rejected the idea of amending the budget resolution and is on schedule for an Oct. 26 markup by the Senate Budget Committee (Dennis, CQ Today, 10/11).
In related news, Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) -- who "has been seeking a vehicle for legislation that would at least temporarily prohibit new specialty hospitals" -- is considering placing the measure in his committee's budget-reconciliation package, The Hill reports.
Critics of specialty hospitals say that they take unfair advantage of the Medicare payment system and can cause conflicts of interest for doctors. Grassley is in continuing talks about the budget package with committee members and "virtually all options remain on the table," according to The Hill.
However, Grassley's specialty hospitals proposal in the past has not gained sufficient support, and its inclusion in the budget reconciliation package could potentially be subject to an "objection on the grounds that [it does] not relate directly to budget reconciliation," The Hill reports (Young, The Hill, 10/12).
AARP CEO William Novelli in an Oct. 7 letter urged Grassley to keep Medicaid cuts at a minimum, stating, "There is no honor in meeting such needs by taking from those least able to give." Novelli said AARP could accept certain Medicaid changes, including "a more rational system" for prescription drug spending and steps to encourage people to save money for long-term care. Novelli said that changing asset transfer rules could result in the denial of care.
In addition, he said that an increase in copayments should include protection for beneficiaries who cannot pay. Novelli also addressed Medicare, stating that an increase in provider payments would further increase beneficiaries' Medicare Part B premiums (CQ HealthBeat, 10/11).