Democrats: Six More Weeks Needed To Craft Economic Stimulus
Congressional leaders had hoped to have an economic stimulus package that includes funds for health care programs for President-elect Barack Obama to sign after he takes office on Jan. 20, but that "looks increasingly doubtful as the legislation grows in complexity and size," the Washington Post reports.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) have estimated that passage of a stimulus package could take six more weeks (Murray, Washington Post, 1/5).
According to Hoyer, Obama likely would not receive the stimulus package until mid-February (Baker/Hulse, New York Times, 1/5).
The "longer timetable will require Obama to take an active role in devising the package," according to the Post.
This week, Obama plans to deliver a speech to outline his stimulus package priorities (Washington Post, 1/5). In addition, Obama plans to meet with congressional leaders to discuss the stimulus package on Monday (Lee, The Politico, 1/2).
On Wednesday, the Steering and Policy Committee of the House Democratic Caucus will hold a hearing on the stimulus package, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said (Russell Chaddock, Christian Science Monitor, 1/5).
The stimulus package likely will include a temporary increase in the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage for state Medicaid programs, funds to help hospitals and physicians adopt health information technology and a reauthorization of SCHIP (Heflin, Roll Call, 1/3).
The temporary increase in FMAP likely will cost between $140 billion and $200 billion.
In addition, the stimulus package might include subsidies for employers that temporarily continue health benefits to laid-off and retired employees and their dependents through COBRA. The stimulus package also might include a provision to allow employees who lose jobs that did not include health insurance to apply for Medicaid (Calmes/Hulse, New York Times, 1/4).
The stimulus package likely will total between $850 billion and $1 trillion (Christian Science Monitor, 1/5).
However, Obama and congressional leaders "are intent on keeping the price tag below the politically charged figure of $1 trillion," according to the New York Times (New York Times, 1/4).Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has "challenged a proposal" to provide states with grants to offset increased Medicaid costs as part of the stimulus package and has said that he prefers to provide assistance in the form of loans (Washington Post, 1/5). He said that the use of loans, rather than grants, would encourage states to spend the funds "more wisely" (Weisman/Bendavid, Wall Street Journal, 1/5). 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.