Congress on Thursday approved a budget blueprint that funds the State Childrens Health Insurance Program at $50 billion above its current baseline funding over five years while establishing 23 reserve funds, which lawmakers can use as placeholders for funding once budgetary offsets from other areas are agreed upon.
Overall, the fiscal 2008 budgetpassed almost exclusively on votes from Democratsoffers $2.9 trillion in spending.
On the healthcare side, the reserve funds are essentially empty coffers for which lawmakers must decide how much money to provide, and, more importantly, where those dollars will come from under the so-called pay-go rules.
On one level, the reserve funds are best read as a list of congressional priorities, said Richard Pollack, executive vice president of policy at the American Hospital Association. This is the practical application of 'pay-go,' he said Theyre saying that theres a reserve fund to do it, but if youre going to d o it, you need to find the offsets.
To that extent, healthcare leaders should be heartened that the budget makes room for SCHIP, provider payments on the hospital and physician fronts, health information technology and Medicare quality-improvement initiatives. The budget also gives the Veterans Affairs Department $43.1 billion for discretionary programs, with the lions share going toward medical care. But the budget is also nonbinding, which means it serves more as a road map rather than a mandate. -- by Matthew DoBias