Bill would benefit HHS' budget
* The House Appropriations Committee's health and human services subcommittee unanimously passed a spending bill that would give HHS a total of $374.3 billion for fiscal 2005, an increase of $14 billion over 2004 funding levels. The proposal includes $63.2 billion in discretionary spending, $1 billion more than HHS received in 2004. The full committee could take up the bill as early as this week. The CMS would receive $300.2 billion for fiscal 2005, an increase of $13.2 billion over 2004 funding. Funding for community health centers would grow to $1.8 billion, a $219 million increase over this year.
Bill aims to ease staffing
* Sens. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) introduced a bill aimed at increasing the number of qualified public health workers. The bill would authorize $35 million per year for scholarships to encourage young people to seek public health careers and $195 million to help students repay loans.
Bonuses offered for quality
* Medicare Advantage plans and end-stage renal-disease providers meeting certain quality indicators would receive bonuses under a bill introduced late last month by Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.). The bonuses would be funded by a 2% reduction in payment rates to Medicare plans and renal-disease providers. Meanwhile, Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.) said he would introduce legislation allowing consumers in the individual insurance market to buy health insurance across state lines. "Individuals looking for basic health insurance coverage can opt for a policy with few benefit mandates, and such a policy will be more affordable. On the other hand, consumers who have an interest in a particular benefit, such as infertility treatments, will be able to purchase a policy in a state that mandates that benefit," Shadegg said in a news release.