House Republicans Delay Vote on Kids’ Health Insurance Legislation
Republican opposition to House legislation (HR 3162) that would reauthorize and expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program on Tuesday sparked an effort to delay consideration of the legislation by stalling the fiscal year 2008 Agricultural Appropriations bill "to highlight Republican complaints about the House's partisan approach to SCHIP reauthorization," CongressDaily reports. The Agriculture spending bill is scheduled to be considered first (Johnson/Bourge, CongressDaily, 8/1).
The House legislation would reduce payments to Medicare Advantage plans and increase the federal cigarette tax by 45 cents per pack to increase funding for SCHIP by $50 billion over five years (California Healthline, 7/30).
The SCHIP bill is scheduled to be considered under a closed rule that will limit debate. However, Republicans "seized the opportunity" on Tuesday to debate SCHIP under the open rule for the agricultural appropriations bill, according to CQ Today (Armstrong/Wayne, CQ Today, 7/31). As a result, the appropriations bill was sent back to the House Rules Committee to have ground rules set for floor debate.
"You have not left my party an alternative," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said (Richert, CQ Today, 7/31).
Senior Democrats said that a final passage vote on SCHIP legislation likely would come late Wednesday (Ota, CQ Today, 7/31).
In related news, the House Rules Committee has posted the text of the SCHIP legislation on its Web site, although the posted version includes neither recent changes by the House Energy and Commerce Committee nor revisions that allow the measure to meet pay/go requirements (CQ HealthBeat, 7/31).
The bill text is available online. Note: you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the bill.
House Democrats on Tuesday said the revisions to SCHIP legislation intended to meet pay/go requirements will save $65 billion over the second half of 10 years, CongressDaily reports (Johnson, CongressDaily, 7/31).
To meet the pay/go guidelines, Democrats on Monday agreed to reduce the amount of funding allotted for bonuses to states for enrolling children in SCHIP. Lawmakers also agreed to limit to two years plans to reverse scheduled cuts in Medicare payments to physicians, according to a House aide (California Healthline, 7/31).
House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee Chair Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) said that the bonus payment change would save $30 billion and the physician reimbursement provision about $35 billion (CongressDaily, 7/31).
The Senate on Tuesday continued debate on its SCHIP bill (S 1893), which Democrats "intend to substitute for the text of a House-passed tax bill (HR 976) that will be stripped of its contents and used as a vehicle" for SCHIP reauthorization, CQ Today reports (Ota, CQ Today, 7/31).
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Tuesday said that the opportunity for Republicans to offer related and unrelated amendments to the SCHIP bill might ease the path toward Senate consideration, CQ HealthBeat reports (Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 7/31).
The SCHIP reauthorization debate "has suddenly become a vehicle for an ideological struggle between President Bush and Congress over the future of the health care system," the New York Times reports.
According to the New York Times, Bush and some Republicans view efforts to expand SCHIP "as a stalking-horse for government-run health care, national health insurance and socialized medicine" (Pear, New York Times, 8/1). In addition, Republican lawmakers say Democrats' efforts "undermined the marketplace" by offering coverage to children who already have private insurance at the expense of Medicare benefits for the elderly because of proposed MA plan cuts, according to the Washington Times.
However, Democrats reject Republicans' "charges that additional children their proposals would serve aren't worthy of federally funded health care," the Washington Times reports (Lengell, Washington Times, 8/1).
Some congressional Republicans "say they're sympathetic" to Bush's criticism that the proposed SCHIP expansion is too large, but "those worries take a back seat to their states' interests," according to the AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Hirschfeld Davis, AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 8/1).
In addition, some Republican lawmakers say that Bush "is not running for re-election" and is able to oppose an SCHIP expansion out of "conviction and principle," which Republicans are not able to do, the Times reports. In the "short term, members of both parties say, the broader outline of that struggle is likely to be reduced to a simple question: Are you for or against children?" according to the New York Times (New York Times, 8/1).
- Newt Gingrich and David Merritt, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Through tax increases, political payoffs and a slow bleeding of private health insurance," House Democrats "seek to push the American people into Washington-controlled bureaucratic health care" through SCHIP legislation, Gingrich, former speaker of the House and founder of the Center for Health Transformation, and Merritt, project director at the center, write in a Journal-Constitution opinion piece. They conclude, "For a Congress that has the lowest public approval rating in history, one has to wonder why its leaders think that raising taxes and cutting Medicare benefits for seniors is the answer. This is not the kind of transformation the American people want or deserve" (Gingrich/Merritt, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 8/1).
- Boston Globe: There is "no doubt" SCHIP legislation "will pass easily this week," and the "only question is whether it will gain enough Republican votes to override a veto promised by" Bush, according to a Globe editorial (Boston Globe, 8/1).
- Ronald Brownstein, Los Angeles Times: With the anticipated passage of SCHIP reauthorization, Congress "is moving responsibly to remove a blot on the nation: the eight million children without health insurance," Times columnist Brownstein writes in an opinion piece. However, Bush -- "seemingly determined to provoke every possible confrontation with congressional Democrats" -- is using a "swarm of misleading and hypocritical arguments" to gain support for defeating the legislation (Brownstein, Los Angeles Times, 8/1).
KCRW's "To the Point" on Wednesday is scheduled to include a discussion about SCHIP legislation ("To the Point" Web site, 8/1). Additional details about the segment are available online. Broadcast information also is available online. Audio of the segment will be available online after the broadcast.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.