Healthcare Business News

HHS funding bill clears Senate Appropriations Committee

By Rich Daly
Posted: September 21, 2011 - 10:30 pm ET

A small cut for HHS and funding to implement the 2010 healthcare law were included in a fiscal 2012 spending bill adopted by the Senate Appropriations Committee late Wednesday.

The bill, approved on a 16-14 party-line vote, would cut HHS funding by less than 1% to $70.18 billion from $70.44 billion.

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The panel rejected a series of Republican amendments by party-line votes, including one by Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) to cut all funding for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The amendment would save $4.4 billion in fiscal 2012 and growing amounts in future years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

“Anyone who believes the government will save money by funding a new entitlement is living in a fantasy world,” Shelby said.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said the united Republican opposition to the HHS funding bill on the basis of it including monies for the 2010 healthcare law was “dangerous and a very bad precedent.”

The total funding for PPACA included in the bill is unknown, according to a Democratic staffer for the panel.

Harkin said the amendment would eliminate provisions of the 2010 healthcare law that have bipartisan support, including anti-fraud measures.

Other Republican amendments would order cost studies of various aspects of the healthcare law, including its Medicaid costs to the states and the price of the essential benefits package, when HHS finalizes that.

Democrats opposed the cost estimate amendments because they did not also require savings to be scored.

The panel also rejected an amendment by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) that would take $500 million from the PPACA's prevention fund to restore half of a $1 billion cut to a federal home energy assistance program.

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