War Spending Bill With Health Care Funds Goes to Bush
The Senate on Thursday voted 51-46 to approve the final version of a $124.2 billion supplemental appropriations bill for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan that includes funds for a number of health care programs, the AP/Winston-Salem Journal reports (AP/Winston-Salem Journal, 4/27).
The bill, which the House passed on Wednesday, would provide $650 million to address expected budget deficits for SCHIP in 14 states. In addition, the legislation would provide $3.3 billion for Department of Defense health care programs, with $20 million allocated to address problems with facilities at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and $900 million allocated for brain trauma injury and post traumatic stress disorder research and treatment.
The bill would provide $50 million to screen rescue and recovery workers who responded to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and to treat medical conditions that they develop because of exposure to toxins released into the atmosphere by the attacks. The legislation would provide $625 million to HHS to purchase antiviral medications and vaccines and to invest in technology to accelerate production of vaccines to help prepare for a potential flu pandemic.
In addition, the bill would provide $25 million for a fund established as part of the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act to compensate individuals injured by vaccines developed in preparation for a potential flu pandemic. The legislation also would transfer $99 million from NIH to the office of the HHS secretary to fund research on products to protect against potential bioterrorist attacks.
The bill would delay for one year a rule proposed by CMS that would have reduced Medicaid reimbursements to health care providers operated by local governments by an estimated $4 billion over five years. The legislation includes a provision that would require states in which Medicaid providers use written prescription pads to use tamper-resistant pads -- a measure that would reduce the number of fraudulent prescriptions -- to help offset the cost of the delay.
In addition, the bill includes a provision that would allow Wisconsin to continue to operate SeniorCare, a prescription drug program for low-income seniors, until Dec. 31, 2009 (California Healthline, 4/26).
After the Senate vote, White House spokesperson Dana Perino said that President Bush will veto the bill because the legislation includes a timeline for withdrawal of troops from Iraq (Hay Brown, Baltimore Sun, 4/27). The House early next week plans to attempt to override the expected veto, but the effort likely will fail (Bourge/Kivlan, CongressDaily, 4/26).
According to CQ Today, in the event that the attempt to override the veto fails, lawmakers will "focus on crafting a bill Bush might sign."
House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee Chair John Murtha (D-Pa.) said that he and House Appropriations Committee Chair David Obey (R-Wis.) have discussed two possibilities for such legislation, both of which include funds for SCHIP and other health care programs (Higa, CQ Today, 4/26).
According to a spokesperson for Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), the Senate might approve legislation that is the same as the current bill but excludes a timeline for withdrawal of troops from Iraq (Cohn, CongressDaily, 4/26).