Lawmakers Add Health Care Measures to Medicare Bill
Lawmakers are planning to address Medicare, the State Children's Health Insurance Program and Medicaid policy changes they had hoped to make last year in new legislation that would stop a 10% cut to Medicare physician fees scheduled to take effect June 30, CongressDaily reports.
According to CongressDaily, "With health care emerging as a top issue with voters, the election year might put increased pressure on lawmakers to present at least a few new health policies," although some proposals could draw veto threats.
Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) "want to explore Medicare changes that did not make it into last year's physician pay fix bill because time ran out," CongressDaily reports. Those changes include measures supported by the Bush administration, such as health information technology requirements and proposals on mental health parity and genetic nondiscrimination.
Committee members also might try to rewrite rules regarding Medicare Advantage plan marketing after the Bush administration last year rejected a proposal that would have given states more flexibility in regulating the plans.
In addition, lawmakers are "likely to respond to the administration's latest attempts to stop states from expanding Medicaid eligibility" beyond 250% of the federal poverty level, CongressDaily reports.
A Baucus aide said the senator is planning to closely watch HHS this year to make sure its actions are consistent with the law.
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), who negotiated SCHIP legislation that President Bush vetoed twice, said she hoped the Bush administration would be more willing to work with Congress this session. She said, "The administration has failed to recognize the way to achieve results for uninsured children is through building legislative consensus, not executive fiat" (Johnson, CongressDaily, 1/10).