Stimulus Package Moves Forward in Senate, Health Funds Intact
On Tuesday, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the $365 billion portion of an $825 billion economic stimulus package over which the committee has jurisdiction that includes funds for health care, CongressDaily reports (Sanchez, CongressDaily, 1/27).
Health IT Funding
Prior to passage, the committee made a few revisions to the $5 billion health information technology portion of the stimulus package.
The committee approved an amendment proposed by Senate Special Committee on Aging Chair Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) that would expand the definition of health care provider to include nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
In addition, the committee added a provision to the stimulus package under which hospitals that have adopted health care IT could receive loans to help them meet federal privacy and compatibility standards (Noyes, CongressDaily, 1/28).
The portion of the stimulus package approved by the committee includes almost the same privacy standards for electronic health records as the House version of the package (Wayne, CQ Today, 1/27).
The committee also approved an amendment proposed by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) to clarify that pharmacies or other entities can contact or market to consumers who have used their products about those products without violation of privacy standards (Noyes, CongressDaily, 1/28).
In addition, the committee amended a provision that would provide $1.1 billion in funds for research on the comparative effectiveness of medical treatments to include the word "clinical" before every reference to such research, a move that could limit use of the results in treatment or coverage decisions by private health insurers and public programs (Edney, CongressDaily, 1/28).
The portion of the stimulus package approved by the committee also included:
- $3.7 billion for construction of new Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals and improvements to current facilities;
- $819.5 million for construction of new Department of Defense medical centers and wounded soldiers and military families (Johnson, CQ Today, 1/27);
- $5.8 billion for preventive health care, such as immunizations and screenings;
- $1 billion for construction and improvements to community health centers;
- $3.5 billion for NIH, with at least $1.35 billion allocated for biomedical research; and
- $412 million for construction of new buildings and equipment for CDC.
Senate Finance Committee
On Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee also approved a portion of the economic stimulus package that includes $18 billion for health care IT and federal subsidies for health insurance under COBRA. In addition, the portion of the stimulus package approved by the committee includes $87 billion in additional federal Medicaid funds for states.
Prior to passage, the committee approved an amendment proposed by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) under which states would receive 80% of the Medicaid funds as a flat rate increase and 20% based on their economic circumstances.
The committee also approved an amendment by Bingaman that would provide small states with additional funds under a Medicare program for hospitals that serve many low-income patients, as well as an amendment proposed by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) under which states would receive about $3.75 billion from Medicare for health care costs improperly covered by Medicaid (Wayne, CQ Today, 1/27).
Funds for California
Jed Kolko, associate director and research fellow for the Public Policy Institute of California, said that California could receive between $10 billion and $14 billion for education and Medi-Cal from the stimulus package (Yamamura, Sacramento Bee, 1/28).
Supporters Raise Concerns
The Post on Wednesday examined how some supporters of Obama and Democrats have raised concerns that the economic stimulus package might "fall short in its broader goal" of "laying the groundwork for overhauls" of health care and other areas.For example, as part of an effort to "address Obama's longer-term goals" for health care reform, the stimulus package includes $20 billion of a total of $50 billion in funds that he seeks to invest in health care IT, which he has said would reduce costs, according to the Post. However, health care experts "worry that the pressure to spend it fast for stimulus reasons could keep the new network from being implemented as effectively as it needs to be to reduce costs," the Post reports (MacGillis, Washington Post, 1/28). 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.