House Leaders Push To Keep Medicare Provisions in Kids’ Insurance Bill
House leaders on Wednesday reaffirmed their commitment to retaining portions of House State Children's Health Insurance Program reauthorization legislation (HR 3162) that would make revisions to Medicare, CongressDaily reports (Johnson/Bourge, CongressDaily, 9/6).
SCHIP legislation approved by the House would reduce payments to Medicare Advantage plans and increase the federal cigarette tax by 45 cents per pack to increase funding for SCHIP by about $50 billion over five years. The bill also would make a number of revisions to Medicare.
The Senate version (S 1893) would reauthorize SCHIP and increase the federal cigarette tax by 61 cents per pack to boost funding for the program by $35 billion over five years.
President Bush has proposed a $5 billion increase over five years for SCHIP, which would raise the program's total five-year funding to $30 billion. Bush has said he would veto the House and Senate bills (California Healthline, 8/21).
House Ways and Means Committee Chair Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) said, "We feel very strongly that we want to keep the package together with Medicare reform." Rangel added that House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair John Dingell (D-Mich.) is in agreement.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will speak to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and "stress" the need to keep the Medicare provisions in a conference report. He added that the House "feels very strongly that the package works together for a lot of objectives that we all should be able to agree on. We worked very hard on a lot of component parts that all work together."
House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee Chair Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) said, "The two most important pieces of this bill are SCHIP" and a provision that would reverse a scheduled 10% cut in Medicare physician reimbursements, and it "seems to me to make sense to address it together." He added, "Everyone agrees we need to do the doctors' fix. Why not do it now?"
However, Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) has said he would like to address Medicare reform separately from SCHIP (CongressDaily, 9/6).
Baucus on Wednesday said he is not ready to consider an extension for SCHIP and would prefer to have differences resolved in conference committee prior to the program's Sept. 30 expiration date, CongressDaily reports.
Baucus said he has begun informal talks with Senate Finance Committee Republicans and members of the House Ways and Means Committee. Baucus said, "I want to get the bill done. I think it's important to get it done. We'll just find a way to do it." Meanwhile, Hoyer on Wednesday acknowledged that an extension is a possibility (Johnson, CongressDaily, 9/5).
CongressDaily reports that a temporary extension could include language "to stay new administrative guidelines limiting states' ability to cover children in families" with incomes greater than 250% of the federal poverty level (CongressDaily, 9/6).