KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Reid Moves Toward Vote On Bill With Medicare ‘Doc Fix,’ Medicaid Provisions

Roll Call: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid filed a motion Monday to stop debate on a bill that includes $140 billion in spending on items such as extended unemployment benefits, enhanced Medicaid payments to states and a fix to keep Medicare reimbursements to doctors from being trimmed. The move suggests Reid thinks he is close to having the votes for passage. "The Senate likely will vote on the motion to end debate Wednesday, teeing up a final passage vote by the end of the week if Reid can hold together 60 Members to support the bill" (Brady, 6/14).

Roll Call, in a separate story: The moves came after Reid rejected a GOP alternative to the bill. The GOP alternative would have extended the unemployment insurance, state assistance for Medicaid and Medicare payments to doctors for 30 days. "The House-passed extenders package is entering its third week on the Senate floor, where it has languished as some Democrats express concerns over its $140 billion cost. Reid and other top Democrats have been working behind the scenes to rally enough support to pass the measure, which would extend funding for unemployment benefits until November and Medicaid funding for an additional year. The Medicaid provision was stripped from the House bill to win enough votes for passage before Memorial Day, but Senate Democrats are hoping to pass legislation that restores it. That would mean the bill would return to the House for another vote." Some Democrats apparently remain unwilling to accept the high cost of the bill and the deficit spending it would bring (Brady, 6/14).

The Hill: The AFL-CIO is pressing senators to "to add an extension of unemployment and healthcare benefits to a new jobs bill." The AFL-CIO said requiring all of the bill to be paid for would negate the economic boost the bill is intended to create. An AFL-CIO official said he expects "Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) to offer an amendment extending healthcare benefits for the unemployed, known as COBRA, to November 2010." The stimulus package passed last year gave unemployed workers a subsidy to pay for 65 percent of the cost of purchasing health insurance through their employers' plans, which generally are very expensive. That benefit has expired (Bogardus, 6/14).

CongressDaily: Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., is aiming to "strike $25 a week in extra unemployment compensation from a nearly $140 billion package of benefit payments and tax breaks could shore up support among wavering senators concerned about its deficit impact." As it stands, the full measure would add about $79 billion to the deficit. "Tester's amendment would only trim about $6 billion from that figure. But it could be seen as a gesture toward the position espoused by Blue Dogs and Senate Democrats like Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Evan Bayh of Indiana, who are holding out for cost cuts."

Congress Daily also points out that Casey's proposal is expected to add back the 65 percent COBRA subsidies for those laid off through November and would cost $7 billion. the cost "demonstrating Reid's balancing act." That provision also was stripped out of a House bill before the House approved its version of the legislation (Cohn, 6/15).

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