House Passes $2.1 Trillion Budget Plan as Senate Democrats Unveil Their Proposal
The House yesterday approved a $2.1 trillion budget plan for fiscal year 2003 as Senate Democrats formally unveiled their proposal of the same amount, the AP/Houston Chronicle reports. The Republican-controlled House approved its plan on a near party-line vote of 221 to 209 (AP/Houston Chronicle, 3/20). The Republican plan includes $350 billion over 10 years for Medicare reform, including a prescription drug benefit, and for increasing Medicare+Choice payments and physician reimbursements (California Healthline, 3/14). The Senate Democrats' plan calls for a $500 billion reserve to cover Medicare reform, a drug benefit, an additional round of "givebacks" to providers and up to $95 million to expand health insurance coverage (California Healthline, 3/20). That plan is likely to be approved by the Senate Budget Committee today, although it is uncertain whether it will win majority support in the chamber. The Washington Post reports that the House and Senate Medicare proposals, which both exceed the $190 billion over the next 10 years proposed by Bush, are similar: "The Democratic plan offers only marginally more money than the House Republican plan over 10 years, and neither plan appears to allocate enough money to deal with the sharp rise in prescription drug prices in recent years." Congress' budget resolution is a non-binding tool used to guide spending priorities when lawmakers write appropriation bills later in the year. "Few lawmakers" expect the two chambers to reach agreement this year on a resolution, something that last occurred in fiscal 1999 (Kessler/Eilperin, Washington Post, 3/21).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.