Health­care hopes bleak for lame-duck Congress’ re­turn

Modern Healthcare - - THE WEEK AHEAD - —Paul Demko

Congress will re­turn from its Thanks­giv­ing break with barely a week left be­fore the fed­eral gov­ern­ment runs out of money. Given that real­ity, pass­ing a plan to pay for gov­ern­ment ser­vices will dom­i­nate the agenda.

The in­side-the-Belt­way ques­tion is whether law­mak­ers ul­ti­mately will pass an om­nibus bill that will fund the gov­ern­ment through the end of the fis­cal year or just ap­prove a con­tin­u­ing reso- lu­tion that would kick the can down the road a month or more. There’s also the dooms­day sce­nario—another gov­ern­ment shut­down.

Sig­nif­i­cantly for health­care stake­hold­ers, the fate of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s re­quest for $6.2 bil­lion in emer­gency fund­ing to com­bat Ebola and pre­pare for fu­ture vi­ral out­breaks will be en­tan­gled in that bud­get brinkman­ship. There are no signs that the Ebola pack­age has en­coun­tered po­lit­i­cal re­sis­tance, but it could be left on the cut­ting-room floor given the nar­row time­frame for action.

Health­care in­ter­ests also have been push­ing an ar­ray of other agenda items for the lame-duck ses­sion, most no­tably per­ma­nent re­peal and re­place­ment of Medi­care’s sus­tain­able growthrate for­mula for pay­ing doc­tors. But the re­mote hope that Congress would take up any­thing sub­stan­tive beyond the bud­get al­most cer­tainly died with Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s ex­ec­u­tive or­der tem­po­rar­ily lift­ing the threat of de­por­ta­tion for up to 5 mil­lion un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants.

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