Congress Unlikely To Consider ‘Major’ Proposals
With Congress returning this week, congressional leaders "are looking to pass a few lower-profile health bills before the end of the 109th Congress," The Hill reports.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chair Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), committee ranking member Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) are leading an effort to negotiate a compromise with House leaders on a bill that would promote the use of electronic health records (Young, The Hill, 9/5). However, "[n]o conferees have been named to negotiate final language, and in this election year the clock could run out before Congress resolves the issue," CQ Today reports (Crowley, CQ Today, 9/5). The Senate and House versions of the bill are "substantially different," The Hill reports.
Senate and House leaders also are attempting to negotiate a compromise to reauthorize the Ryan White CARE Act, which provides $2 billion annually in medical assistance to people with HIV/AIDS (The Hill, 9/5).
Lawmakers are expected to "leave major domestic tasks undone," including fiscal year 2007 budget legislation and modifications to the Medicare prescription drug benefit, the Washington Post reports (Weisman, Washington Post, 9/3). Other issues Congress might address include Medicare payments, according to The Hill.
The American Medical Association is lobbying "aggressive[ly]" for Congress to block a 5.1% cut to Medicare physician reimbursements scheduled to take effect in January. Most lawmakers agree that the Medicare payment formula needs reform, but concerns remain over the cost -- estimated at $1.1 billion annually -- of blocking the physician reimbursement cut.
In addition, physician groups are "skeptical" about plans proposed by some Republicans to tie Medicare reimbursements to improvements in quality of care, The Hill reports (The Hill, 9/5).
Republican leaders in the Senate should "force Democrats to vote up or down" on a "popular bill to let small businesses and associations offer lower-cost insurance the way that Fortune 500 companies can," a Wall Street Journal editorial states. The editorial adds that "[l]iberals in the Senate are blocking it precisely because it might reduce the ranks of the uninsured and thus reduce the demand for government health care" (Wall Street Journal, 9/5).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.