A House committee last week trimmed nearly $248 million from the Department of Veterans Affairs' proposed $17 billion fiscal year 1996 healthcare spending.
The House Appropriations Committee also rejected several attempts to divert up to $1.3 billion in federal Medicaid money to fund increases in education, worker-safety and training programs, and assorted HHS programs. Committee Democrats wanted to cap the federal share of any state's Medicaid budget at 65% or 69% to pay for those programs.
The appropriations panel's $16.7 billion VA healthcare spending authorization still represents a $500 million increase over the fiscal 1995 budget. But the bill, passed last week, would scrap plans to build new hospitals in Brevard County, Fla., and at Travis Air Force Base outside San Francisco, reducing VA's requested construction budget by $330 million to $183.5 million.
The VA spending bill was expected to face a vote in the full House this week.
The committee's effort to cap the federal share of Medicaid spending came as it considered a bill to fund HHS, Labor Department and education programs.
The committee added $116 million to maternal and child health block grants and $77.3 million for increased community and migrant health center programs by nixing a family-planning program.
Its bill consolidates health professions training programs and keeps funding constant with the 1995 budget, increases funding for the National Institutes of Health and slices the budget of the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research by one-fifth.
The committee also revised legislation appropriating $4.1 million for the Physician Payment Review Commission and only $2.1 million for the Prospective Payment Assessment Commission.
Its bill funds them equally at $3.1 million. But officials expect the commissions, which advise Congress on Medicare payment issues, will be merged soon.