No Congressional Consensus on How to Proceed with Medicare Givebacks
Returning to Washington on Dec. 4, congressional Republicans "expressed strong interest" in approving a measure that would restore some $38 billion cut from Medicare as a result of the 1997 Balanced Budget Act, but they "played down expectations" for the fate of the overall tax relief bill the Medicare givebacks measure is now attached to, CongressDaily/A.M. reports. Senate Banking Chair Phil Gramm (R-Texas) said, "I think it is clear that the tax bill is not going to get done," but he "predicted that Medicare adjustments would be made because of the bipartisan support that portion of the tax bill enjoys." Gramm has called for the givebacks portion of the tax bill to be "moved as separate legislation before the 106th Congress adjourns" (Norton, CongressDaily/A.M., 12/5). Even with Senate Republicans "united" behind the givebacks, there appears to be "no clear consensus on how to achieve it," CongressDaily/A.M. reports. Senate Majority Whip Don Nickles (R-Okla.) "said it was a high priority" to take the givebacks portion out of the tax bill and pass it. However, Senate Appropriations Chair Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) "suggested" that the entire tax bill could be added to the "already beleaguered" Labor-HHS appropriations measure, instead of just adding the Medicare provisions. A House GOP leadership aide said, "My best guess is ... either we won't get it done or we'll do something minor (to the BBA bill) and add it to another bill." One thing seems certain -- Republicans are "loath to add more money" to the giveback bill. President Clinton has criticized the givebacks measure, saying it allocates too much money to managed care companies. But Nickles said he would be "reluctant" to add more money for other entities, including hospitals and other care providers. The leadership aide added, "This is supposed to be a BBA adjustment bill, not the new program expansion bill" (Fulton/Rovner, CongressDaily/A.M., 12/5).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.