U.S. House leaders are set to introduce the Childrens Health and Medicare Protection Act, or CHAMP, which includes an additional $50 billion over five years to expand the State Childrens Health Insurance Program and a two-year payment increase for physicians, even though privately the lawmakers are preparing a more streamlined measure as a backup plan that would strip out some the costlier Medicare provisions.
The CHAMP billwhich could be introduced as soon as next weekcomes after the Senate Finance Committee defied a presidential veto threat and passed a $35 billion bill to reauthorize and expand the SCHIP program.
All along, the House has plotted a different legislative blueprint for SCHIP that could test the mettle of some lawmakers.
Not only would the House version eliminate a scheduled 10% payment reduction for physicians, it would also bring payments to Medicare Advantage plans more in line with traditional Medicare, extend a number of expiring rural health provisions, and eliminate co-payments and deductibles for preventive-care benefits, according to sources familiar with the House plan.
The House leaders contingency plan involves a secondary billone that reauthorizes SCHIP for just one yearthat could be used as a backstop in case the broader Childrens Health and Medicare bill stalls over funding, a source briefed on the negotiations said. Already, a group of fiscally conservative Democrats have balked at the proposed 61-cent-per-pack tobacco tax increase the Senate panel approved and that the House agreed to, saying that its too high. Along with the tax hike, the House is expected to use savings garnered from paring down payments to the private plans that operate in Medicare Advantage.
President Bush said he would likely veto SCHIP legislation that seeks to expand the program in a fiscally unsound manner.
Meanwhile, the American Medical Association and AARP debuted a television ad and a massive direct mailing campaign they plan to run promoting the one-two punch of SCHIP reauthorization and measures that would strengthen seniors access to care.
If pictures are worth a thousand words, then we think this TV ad will get through, loud and clear, AMA President Elect Nancy Nielsen said. -- by Matthew DoBias