Health Bills Await Congress at Start of New Session
As Congress prepares for a new legislative session that begins on Tuesday, lawmakers are preparing to address several issues related to health care, the New York Times reports (Hulse, New York Times, 1/15).
Summaries of the issues appear below.
Members of the House are continuing work on the fiscal year 2008 $696 billion defense authorization bill (HR 1585), which President Bush vetoed last month.
Senior legislative aides on Monday said Democrats likely would not launch a major fight over the veto, preferring to move onto other issues that could be a major focus in the months leading up to the November presidential election, including health care (New York Times, 1/15). The legislation includes almost $950 million for improvements to health benefits for veterans and pay increases for military personnel (California Healthline, 1/3).
Democrats have challenged the constitutionality of the veto, saying that Bush does not have the authority to pocket veto legislation between sessions of Congress and that his statement on the bill is the same as a regular veto (Rogin, CQ Today, 1/14).
House Democrats are considering using reconciliation procedures to "jam through the Senate tricky offsets" for Medicare legislation during the FY 2009 budget process, CongressDaily reports.
Democrats will be faced with reversing a 10% cut to Medicare physician fees later this year, after they passed legislation last session to stop the cut for six months. House Democrats last year attempted to block the cuts by reducing payments to private Medicare Advantage providers, but the plan was rejected by the White House and most Republicans (Cohn, CongressDaily, 1/14).
House Democrats are planning an override vote next week on Bush's second veto of legislation that would have expanded SCHIP (Abrams, AP/Boston Globe, 1/15).
Bush last month signed legislation to provide funding for SCHIP through March 2009. The extension is expected to provide enough funds to cover children currently enrolled in the program (California Healthline, 1/2).
Democrats were unable to override the previous veto of the bill (New York Times, 1/15).
In related news, the House New Democrat Coalition is preparing to launch a health policy task force this month, which has a legislative agenda containing a proposal already endorsed by the Bush administration. Issues they will be addressing include electronic prescribing, payments for providers based on quality of care, portable health insurance, expanding school- and work-centered prevention efforts, mandated comparisons of the effectiveness of drugs and treatments, and giving FDA the authority to approve generic versions of biologic drugs (Johnson, CongressDaily, 1/15).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.