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Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Akron Univ. School of Law

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Saturday, February 4, 2006

Health Appropriations Bill Passes in House

The Conference Committee's budget reconciliation bill, S. 1932, passed on Wednesday, 214-214.  This is the same version that passed the Senate in November (see my earlier post on this), so it's on its way to the President for his signature. In addition to the features described below by the Kaiser Family Foundation's Daily Health Policy Report, the law will require HHS to continue the moratorium on enrolling new specialty hospitals for up to six months after the date of enactment.  Here's Kaiser's summary of other major features of the bill:

The House on Wednesday voted 216-214 to approve the fiscal year 2006 budget reconciliation bill (S 1932), which contains more than $39 billion in cuts, including $6.4 billion from Medicare and $4.8 billion from Medicaid, the New York Times reports (Stolberg, New York Times, 2/2). The House on Dec. 19, 2005, voted 212-206 to approve the bill, but procedural moves in the Senate required the House to vote on the bill a second time before the legislation could move to President Bush for consideration. The Senate on Dec. 21, 2005, voted 51-50 to approve the legislation (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 2/1). All House Democrats voted against the bill, and all but 13 Republican voted in favor of it. Four Republicans who voted in favor of the bill in December voted against it on Wednesday (Fagan/Hurt, Washington Times, 2/2). Under the Medicaid provisions of the bill, most beneficiaries would be required to pay higher copayments for health care services and could be denied service for lack of payment. In addition, penalties would increase for seniors who transfer assets before they apply for long-term Medicaid coverage. The bill would make seniors with home equity of more than $500,000 ineligible for nursing home benefits. In addition, the bill would increase Medicaid coverage for disabled children whose families earn up to 300% of the federal poverty level, beginning Jan. 1, 2007 (Kuhnhenn, Philadelphia Inquirer, 2/2). Provisions affecting Medicare include higher premiums for beneficiaries, with greater increases for higher-income beneficiaries, and a freeze in payments for home health care providers (New York Times, 2/2). The bill also cancels a scheduled cut in Medicare reimbursements to physicians and provides medical care to some hurricane survivors (Dennis, CQ Today, 2/1).

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