Labor-HHS Compromise Reached, Congress Set to Vote Dec. 15
Congress is set to vote Dec. 15 on the $108.9 billion Labor-HHS appropriations bill, complete with the Medicare "giveback" legislation, the AP/Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) said, "I think we're home free," as the signing of this and other spending bills would allow the 106th Congress to adjourn tomorrow. Under the new compromise, HHS' funding would increase by 16%, an increase of $4.8 billion, and research funds for NIH would "rise 14% to about $20.3 billion." Under the giveback portion of the bill, designed to restore funds cut by the 1997 Balanced Budget Act, providers and managed care companies will receive at least a $30 billion increase in Medicare reimbursements over five years, and rural health and "other Medicare" providers would receive at least $1.7 billion (Abrams, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 12/14). The scheduled vote on the Labor-HHS bill, which comes more than two months after the fiscal year began Oct. 1., is the result of negotiation this week between Republican leaders and the White House, who agreed, "under pressure from conservatives," to cut $3.7 billion from a tentative compromise reached before the election. Some of the reductions included cutting $200 million in NIH funding and $900 million from HHS. Still, the $108.9 billion figure -- which also includes funding for the education department -- represents a 75% increase in discretionary funding for the three departments over when President Clinton took office (Rogers, Wall Street Journal, 12/14).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.