GOP pushes ahead with deficit-reduction plans
Energized after a spring recess, House Republicans last week approved more legislation to weaken the healthcare reform law. They also stood by their plan to make major changes for Medicare and Medicaid as members from both political parties began deficit-reduction plans with the White House.
Federal dollars for health insurance exchanges and the construction of schoolbased health centers became the House GOP’s latest targets, as the House passed bills to eliminate funding for them in last year’s Patient and Protection and Affordable Care Act.
House GOP members also introduced a bill to repeal the law’s requirement that states main- tain Medicaid eligibility levels until the insurance exchanges are in operation. Republicans say the maintenance-of-effort provision is forcing states to make cuts to other programs such as educa- tion and law enforcement.
Separately, the House approved legislation to permanently prohibit the use of taxpayer dollars for abortions.
On May 3—Congress’ second day back after a two-week break—the House voted 283-183 to eliminate federal funding for states to establish the insurance exchanges, even though Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said the bill would be “dead on arrival” in the Senate and the White House promised a veto.
The next day, House members voted 235191 to eliminate funding for the construction of school-based health centers. According to the National Assembly on School-Based Health Care, more than 350 applicants nationwide are seeking funding through the first round of competitive grants in the Affordable Care Act, which provided $50 million a year for four years in one-time funding for construction, renovation and equipment.
The House also voted 251-175 to permanently prohibit the use of taxpayer dollars for abortions except in the cases of rape, incest and harm to the mother. That legislation builds on the Hyde amendment, a measure Congress passed in 1976 that bars the use of federal fund- Medicare program and result in a large number of Medicare beneficiaries losing access to services. Addressing the issue is on the committee’s “short list of getting things done this summer,” Upton said.
American Medical Association President Dr. Cecil Wilson testified the SGR formula has called for payment reductions since 2002, when payments were cut by 5%. Since then, Congress has intervened a dozen items to prevent additional cuts. And because funding wasn’t provided to reform the formula, the current Congress must address even steeper cuts.
Wilson presented a three-part solution that suggests repealing the sustainable growth-rate formula and implementing a five-year period of stable Medicare payments as policymakers and stakeholders develop a permanent solution. The third element calls for transitioning to a range of new payment
Cantor leaves a May 5 meeting on deficit reductions. House GOP members stand by
changes to Medicare and Medicaid.