House Democrats fought off fierce GOP opposition and a number of stalling tactics to approve a far-reaching bill that reauthorizes and expands the State Childrens Health Insurance Program, but also makes a number of Medicare funding changes regarding healthcare providers.
The House voted largely along party lines, 225 to 204, to approve the Childrens Health and Medicare Protection Act of 2007, which authorizes close to $50 billion over five years in additional funding for the SCHIP, using a 45-cent increase in the federal tobacco tax and cuts to the Medicare Advantage program as spending offsets.
Bush administration officials, however, threatened a veto. The House would need about 290 votes to override a veto; the Senate, 67. The Senate on Wednesday also continued debate on its more-streamlined childrens health bill, which could come to a vote as early as today.
The CHAMP Act will move millions of children from private insurance to public assistance and create a new middle-class entitlement that our country cannot afford, HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said in a statement.
The House legislative package contains a raft of provisions that directly affect hospitals and physicians. Under terms of the bill, inpatient and outpatient hospitals would see a one-year, 0.25% reduction in their market basket updates for fiscal 2008, which federal accountants said would save Medicare $1.4 billion over five years.
The bill would also freeze the inpatient rehabilitation rule, the so-called 75% Rule, at 60%, effectively stopping its full implementation.
Additionally, the CHAMP Act replaces the scheduled 10% physician payment cut with two years of positive updates, both at 0.5%, and extends a host of expiring provisions for rural healthcare providers. -- by Matthew DoBias
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