Reduced Surplus Estimates Endanger Reserve Fund for Uninsured
Reduced federal budget estimates released last month by the Congressional Budget Office and the White House Office of Management and Budget may put at risk a provision in the fiscal year 2002 budget to reduce the number of uninsured, CongressDaily/AM reports (Rovner, CongressDaily/AM, 9/6). Earlier this year, Congress agreed to set aside $28 billion, spread out over three years, to help millions of uninsured Americans obtain coverage through a combination of Medicaid and CHIP program expansions and tax deductions for individuals purchasing private insurance and for employers who help their low-income workers pay for private coverage as part of the fiscal year 2002 budget resolution (California Healthline, 8/8). At the "insistence" of the Democratic leadership, the measure contained language that would keep the funds from being spent if the expenditure would "reduce the on-budget surplus below the level of the Medicare Hospital Insurance Trust Fund surplus" (CongressDaily/AM, 9/6). Last month, the OMB released a revised fiscal year 2001 budget showing that the projected federal budget surplus has decreased by $123 billion since April, and the CBO released a revised budget finding that the surplus has decreased by $122 billion (California Healthline, 9/4). CongressDaily/AM reports that, given those findings, "it would appear that the money is now out of reach." But the funds may still "technically" be available, as the budget resolution is based on budget estimates made in May, not August, CongressDaily/AM reports. "[T]alks [about how to use the funds] are still continuing," particularly among Senate Finance Committee staff, but the "funding questions" are "complicating" the issue, CongressDaily/AM reports (CongressDaily/AM, 9/6).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.