House Narrowly Approves Budget Reconciliation Bill
The House on Wednesday voted 216-214 to approve the fiscal year 2006 budget reconciliation bill (S 1932), which contains more than $39 billion in cuts, including $6.4 billion from Medicare and $4.8 billion from Medicaid, the New York Times reports (Stolberg, New York Times, 2/2).
The House on Dec. 19, 2005, voted 212-206 to approve the bill, but procedural moves in the Senate required the House to vote on the bill a second time before the legislation could move to President Bush for consideration. The Senate on Dec. 21, 2005, voted 51-50 to approve the legislation (California Healthline, 2/1).
All House Democrats voted against the bill, and all but 13 Republican voted in favor of it. Four Republicans who voted in favor of the bill in December voted against it on Wednesday (Fagan/Hurt, Washington Times, 2/2).
Under the Medicaid provisions of the bill, most beneficiaries would be required to pay higher copayments for health care services and could be denied service for lack of payment. In addition, penalties would increase for seniors who transfer assets before they apply for long-term Medicaid coverage. The bill would make seniors with home equity of more than $500,000 ineligible for nursing home benefits. In addition, the bill would increase Medicaid coverage for disabled children whose families earn up to 300% of the federal poverty level, beginning Jan. 1, 2007 (Kuhnhenn, Philadelphia Inquirer, 2/2).
Provisions affecting Medicare include higher premiums for beneficiaries, with greater increases for higher-income beneficiaries, and a freeze in payments for home health care providers (New York Times, 2/2). The bill also cancels a scheduled cut in Medicare reimbursements to physicians and provides medical care to some hurricane survivors (Dennis, CQ Today, 2/1).
The California Legislative Analyst's Office estimates that the state will lose $1.7 billion in federal aid and will have to spend $1.4 billion in state funds under the bill, the Los Angeles Times reports. The state Finance Department estimates a $2.4 billion loss in federal aid.
Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles) said the reduction in federal funding "jeopardizes many of the matching funds we were hoping for to fund health care and education programs" (Simon/Havemann, Los Angeles Times, 2/2).
President Bush said, "The House today passed a significant spending reduction package that will curb the growth of entitlement spending for the first time in years and help us stay on track to cut the deficit in half by 2009" (Taylor, AP/Houston Chronicle, 2/2).
Acting House Majority Leader Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said, "Once again, House Republicans are on record as defending budget discipline" (Washington Times, 2/2).
Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-Ohio) said, "American taxpayers, and anyone concerned with the nation's long-term fiscal stability, have won a great victory today" (Weisman, Washington Post, 2/2).
However, Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.), one of four Republicans to vote against the bill after supporting it in December, said he was "very concerned about ... funding for mental health and education as well as important health care areas that will ultimately target our nation's most needy citizens" (New York Times, 2/2).
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said, "This [bill] isn't about small government. This is about small-minded, petty government that does not meet the needs of the American people" (Simon/Havemann, Los Angeles Times, 2/2).
Rep. John Spratt (D-S.C.) said that any lawmaker "thinking that this is going to reduce the deficit has another thought coming. The process is a sham" (Philadelphia Inquirer, 2/2).
Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) said, "A vote for this bill is a vote, literally, to take away from health care from our children so we can give more money to the super-rich" (New York Times, 2/2).
NPR's "All Things Considered" on Wednesday reported on the House vote. The segment includes comments from Blunt, Commerce Health Subcommittee Chair Nathan Deal (R-Ga.) and Reps. John Dingle (D-Mich.), Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) and Mike Pence (R-Ind.) (Seabrook, "All Things Considered," NPR, 2/1). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.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.