Senate Votes Down Planned Medicare Home Care Funding Cut
The Senate yesterday voted 99-1 in favor of an amendment to the FY02 budget resolution that would use "surplus funds" to eliminate a planned 15% cut for Medicare home health care providers, CongressDaily reports. Only Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) voted against the measure. The 15%, or $13.7 billion, cut was part of the 1997 Balanced Budget Act, but the reduction has been delayed in subsequent Medicare "giveback" bills. However, because of the cost, the cut was not eliminated. Amendment sponsor Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said, "The fact that Congress has delayed the automatic 15% cutback for three straight years demonstrates that the cut is not justified, it is not warranted." Before approving Collins' amendment, the Senate defeated a similar proposal by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) that would have "set aside" the cut by reducing the budget resolution's proposed $1.6 trillion tax cut. While voting for the Collins amendment, Stabenow said the measure "does not guarantee that the [home-health reimbursement] cut will not take place" and that eliminating the cut could be financed with funds from the Medicare Part A trust fund. Collins and Senate Budget Chair Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) "promise[d]" the trust fund would not be used.
In other Capitol Hill news, Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Tim Hutchinson (R-Ark.) introduced a bill to alleviate the nursing shortage "crisis" by "encourag[ing]" students to pursue nursing. Called the Nurse Employment and Education Development Act, the bill would provide scholarships to nursing students who agree to work in "underserved" areas and assist nurses in obtaining "advanced training." The bill would also help train people to become nursing teachers. CongressDaily reports that Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and James Jeffords (R-Vt.) introduced a similar measure Wednesday, while Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.), a nurse, is sponsoring a measure in the House (Rovner, CongressDaily, 4/5).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.