House Begins Debate on FY 2006 Labor-HHS Appropriations Bill
The House on Thursday began debate on the Labor-HHS-Education fiscal year 2006 appropriations bill (HR 3010), with a final vote expected on Friday, the Washington Post reports. Rep. Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.) raised opposition to a provision in the legislation that would eliminate funds for an $83 million community health center program that provides access to care for millions of uninsured U.S. residents. He said that the program "embodies exactly the kind of innovative approach to health care" Congress should support.
Rep. Ralph Regula (R-Ohio), chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, HHS, Education and Related Agencies, said that the Bush administration recommended the provision to end the program. He added, "We felt we had to accept the president's proposal" (Murray/Farhi, Washington Post, 6/24). Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) likely will propose an amendment to the legislation that would block funds for the salaries of federal employees who reimburse hospitals that provide care for undocumented immigrants (CQ HealthBeat, 6/23).
Meanwhile, House Democrats might propose an amendment under which Medicare managed care and prescription drug plans could not acquire access to personal information about beneficiaries to market products to them. The Bush administration in the six-page Statement of Administration Policy said that such an amendment "would seriously disrupt the process of educating Medicare beneficiaries about their choices under the new Medicare drug benefit and could slow beneficiary enrollment" (Rovner, CongressDaily, 6/23).
The "Bush administration has steadily increased funding for community-based health centers that provide care to uninsured families, homeless people and the working poor, among others," a Baltimore Sun editorial states.
According to the editorial, the provision in the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill that would eliminate funds for the program places in "doubt a worthy goal to increase the number of people served by these centers to 16 million next year." The editorial concludes, "House lawmakers should restore the money" (Baltimore Sun, 6/24).