Congress Unlikely To Pass Additional Medicaid Funds

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A "broad-based stimulus favored by Democrats" that includes additional federal Medicaid funds for states "seems highly unlikely" to pass this week during a lame-duck session of Congress amid opposition from Republicans, CQ Today reports (CQ Today, 11/14). According to Roll Call, Democrats "now acknowledge that passage of an economic stimulus plan or automaker bailout will likely have to wait until next year" (Pierce/Dennis, Roll Call, 11/17). Whether either the Senate or the House will hold a vote on a stimulus package remains uncertain, according to CongressDaily (Bourge/Schneider, CongressDaily, 11/14).

Senate Democrats could attempt to pass a stimulus package that the House approved in September, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has acknowledged that Republicans likely would object to his request for unanimous consent on the bill (Roll Call, 11/17). In the House, which plans to return to session on Wednesday, any stimulus package that reaches the floor would include additional federal Medicaid funds for states, although the increase would remain small in an effort to prevent a veto by President Bush, according to Energy and Commerce Committee Health Subcommittee Chair Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) (Sanchez et al., CongressDaily 11/17).

Assistance for Automakers

As early as Wednesday, the Senate plans to vote on a bill that would provide automakers with $25 billion in loans from the recently enacted $700 billion bailout for Wall Street firms, CongressDaily reports. The House also could vote on the legislation, although the prospects for passage remain uncertain in both chambers, according to CongressDaily (Goode, CongressDaily, 11/14).

Executives from United Auto Workers, General Motors, Chrysler and Ford earlier this month in a meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Reid and other congressional leaders asked for $25 billion in additional federal loans for health care payments for retirees. The loans would help cover the contributions from the companies to a voluntary employees' beneficiary association for UAW retirees. Executives for the companies also asked for $25 billion in loans to maintain operations (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 11/14).

Additional Developments

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Summaries of several developments related to the new Congress appear below.

* Bush administration regulations: Congressional Democrats next year could seek to overturn a number of Bush administration regulations related to health, the environment and other issues, the AP/Washington Times reports. Congress can overturn regulations issued as early as May under special fast-track authority included in the Congressional Review Act of 1996. Under the law, Congress has 60 congressional working days to overturn such regulations (Beamish, AP/Washington Times, 11/14).

* Freshman lawmakers: Four Democrats elected to the House on Friday said that the new Congress should make health care reform a top priority, CQ HealthBeat reports. During a conference call sponsored by Health Care for America Now!, Reps.-elect Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), Debbie Halvorson (D-Ill.), Eric Massa (D-N.Y.) and Mark Schauer (D-Mich.) said that they would seek to address health care reform early in the new Congress. They said that health reform likely would have to pass in pieces, rather than in a comprehensive bill, because of the current economic downturn and opposition from Republicans (Semnani, CQ HealthBeat, 11/14).

* Health care reform: Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chair Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) "show every indication of working together closely and agreeing more than they disagree on what course to take" with health care reform, CQ Today reports. The lawmakers and the ranking members of the committees plan to meet on Thursday to discuss the issue (Armstrong, CQ Today, 11/14).

* Republicans: Republicans no longer are "relevant" to voters because, rather than seek to address health care and other issues "relevant to people's lives," they have focused on ideological concerns, according to Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the Washington Times reports. He said that Republicans must develop proposals to address health care and other issues to regain the support of voters (Dinan, Washington Times, 11/17).

Opinion Piece

GM "should be allowed to go bankrupt," a move that would allow the company to renegotiate health benefits and make other needed changes, Michael Levine, a research scholar and a senior lecturer at New York University School of Law, writes in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece. In addition, a "GM bankruptcy will make addressing health care coverage more urgent, which is probably a good thing," according to Levine (Levine, Wall Street Journal, 11/17).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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