WORKING DISABLED: Gramm’s Tax Fears Slow Bill’s Progress
Despite the support of more than three-quarters of the Senate, Senate Banking Committee Chair Phil Gramm (R-TX) has blocked requests to bring the Work Incentives Improvement Act to the Senate floor, over fears that the bill's reliance on a foreign tax increase might "open the floodgates" for tax financing of other Medicare expansion proposals, Congress Daily/A.M. reports. "This is a small bill," but I'm worried about the precedent we would be setting," Gramm said, adding, "We need to find a pay-for from another entitlement so we don't pay for a new entitlement by raising taxes." Gramm said he is meeting with the Finance Committee to devise another means of financing. Meanwhile, Sens. Jim Jeffords (R-VT) and Edward Kennedy (D-MA), the bill's sponsors are growing impatient, and a spokesperson from the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee said they would ask Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) to bring it to the floor. Jeffords and Kennedy thought that they had appeased the few senators opposed to the bill including Lott and Majority Whip Don Nickles (R-OK) -- during pre-Memorial Day recess negotiations that included a "steeper sliding premium scale for the optional program to let those receiving Medicaid to 'buy in' to the program, with those earning $75,000 being required to pay the full cost of coverage," and a shortened eligibility period from 10 to six years after disabled persons return to work. However, Lott said Tuesday that Gramm has "a legitimate concern. We'll see if it can be worked out" (Rovner, 6/9).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.