Congress Members, Leaders Discuss Health Policy Issues
Unless President Bush "whittle[s] down" his $1.6 trillion tax cut plan, no money will be left over in the budget to address
managed care reform, among other issues, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said yesterday during the First National Health Policy Conference. Rockefeller said, "If we don't make the proper approach with our tax cut, everything else we talked about at this conference won't happen." Former HCFA chief and current chair of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission Gail Wilensky added that while a tax cut likely will pass and thus "set the stage for other programs," the actual amount of the cut has "yet to be determined." She said, "My assumption, as with all pieces of legislation, is that it will be subject to negotiation and change." She enumerated Bush's health care priorities, including his
Immediate Helping Hand prescription drug benefit program and his broader plan to model a prescription plan for seniors after the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. Furthermore, she said that the administration has also expressed interest in restructuring HCFA, giving tax credits to low-income individuals to purchase health insurance and developing Community Health Centers. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chair James Jeffords (R-Vt.) added that he was "optimistic" Congress could enact "several" health reforms this year, including a Medicare prescription drug benefit and managed care reform. On managed care reform, Jeffords said that he and other members of Congress had begun rehashing the issues of scope and liability the previous night. He added that along with Sen. John Breaux (D-La.), he intends to introduce a tax credit bill that would give a $3,500 voucher to low- and moderate-income families to purchase health insurance. In addition, Jeffords said that he plans to work on expanding the CHIP program and holding oversight hearings on HHS medical privacy regulations (Fulton, CongressDaily, 2/1).