Health Issues Not Likely to be a Priority for Congress
Although "as recently as Monday" health issues such as patients' rights and a Medicare drug benefit appeared "likely to play a central role in the end-of-year budget battle this fall," they are "among items now headed for the back burner" considering Tuesday's attacks, CongressDaily/AM reports. Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) said, "Everything's a lower priority. All the other little issues seem less important to debate" (Rovner, CongressDaily/AM, 9/13). Among the lower priorities are budgetary issues, including the "sudden disappearance of the debate on preserving the Social Security surpluses," the Washington Post reports (Broder/Eilperin, Washington Post, 9/13). Several health-related hearings were cancelled this week, including a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Medicaid's upper payment limit"; a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on embryonic stem cell research; a House Ways and Means subcommittee hearing on Medicare contractor reform; a joint House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on Medicare drug reimbursement; and separate Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearings on protections for human research subjects and genetic discrimination. A senior Senate committee aide said, "We're taking things moment by moment." A House committee aide added, "Positions haven't changed, but the world has." Families USA Executive Director Ron Pollack expressed concern about the fate of a bill to provide coverage to the uninsured, saying, "It was in trouble before. This certainly can't help." In addition to Congress, other groups delayed action on various health issues. For instance, the National Academy of Sciences and Families USA each delayed the release of reports on the uninsured (CongressDaily/AM, 9/13).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.