Healthcare hopes bleak for lame-duck Congress’ return
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.