Health Care Playing Bigger Role in Economic Stimulus Package
President-elect Barack Obama and congressional Democrats have begun to "significantly expand the health provisions" in a $500 billion economic stimulus package that lawmakers hope to complete in early January 2009 to allow Obama to sign the legislation after he takes office, the Washington Post reports.
According to the Post, Obama and congressional Democrats maintain that "pouring billions of dollars into an array of health programs will not only boost the economy but also make a down payment on promises of broader health care reform."
Obama has said that the package will include an additional $40 billion for state Medicaid programs over two years through an increase in the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage.
In addition, the package likely will include funds for health information technology. The package also might include a reauthorization of the State Children's Health Insurance Program and an expansion of the 1986 Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, which allows all employees who lose their jobs to retain employer-sponsored health insurance provided that they pay 102% of the premiums.
During a press conference Thursday in which Obama nominated former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) as HHS secretary, Obama said that the current economic recession increases the need for health care reform (Levey, Chicago Tribune, 12/12).
Obama said, "If we want to overcome our economic challenges, then we must finally address our health care challenge" (Edney, CongressDaily, 12/11).
Obama said that health care reform "has to be intimately woven into our overall economic recovery plan" and is "not something that we can sort of put off because we're in an emergency" (Rubenstein, "Health Blog," Wall Street Journal, 12/11). According to Obama, health care reform is needed, regardless of whether the effort requires "additional dollars to pay for some investments in the short term" (Wolf, USA Today, 12/11).
During the press conference, "Obama didn't offer many specifics on how he expected to pay for health reform" but "pointed to better health information technology and disease prevention programs as ways to cut costs from the system," the Wall Street Journal's "Health Blog" reports.
Obama also cited the Medicare Advantage program as an example of a program not "necessarily giving good bang for the buck" (Rubenstein , "Health Blog," Wall Street Journal, 12/11).
Obama "has provided few details about his health care proposal" and "has declined to outline how his administration would pay for an overhaul that some estimate could exceed $100 billion a year," according to Long Island Newsday (Levey, Long Island Newsday, 12/12).
C-SPAN on Friday reported on prospects for health care reform. The segment includes comments from:
- Edward Howard, executive vice president of the Alliance for Health Reform;
- NPR health correspondent Julie Rovner;
- Robert Wood Johnson Foundation President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey;
- Mark Hayes, health policy director for the Senate Finance Committee;
- Jocelyn Moore, legislative assistant to Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.);
- John McDonough, senior adviser to Kennedy; and
- Charles Clapton, director of health policy for the Senate HELP Committee ("Washington Journal," C-SPAN, 12/12).