On Thursday, the House approved their version of a supplemental war spending bill.
House leaders bypassed Committee action on the spending bill and brought the legislation straight to the House floor in three separate pieces. This was done in order to allow Members opposed to the war to vote against providing more funding but, at the same time, vote for domestic funding provisions. However, a strategic move by House Republicans to vote simply "present" on the war funding portion prevented this major piece from being adopted as part of the bill sent to the Senate.
In addition, the House voted 256-166 to approve an amendment which contained moratoria on seven controversial Medicaid regulations. The provision also included expansion of GI Bill educational benefits for veteran and an extension of unemployment benefits for 13 weeks beyond the normal 26 weeks. The vote on this amendment was not a wide enough margin to override a veto if necessary. The Administration is opposed to efforts to delay the Medicaid regulations.
Separately, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its version of the war spending bill on Thursday as well and included the Medicaid regulations moratoria. The Senate version also includes a moratoria on an August 17, 2007 State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) directive which made it harder for states to expand their SCHIP programs. Senate leaders are expected to bring their bill, which includes the troop funding provisions left out House bill, to the floor the week of May 19th. This added provision will necessitate another House vote.
The White House has threatened to veto the current bill, urging Congress to pass a "clean" supplemental spending bill focused on war funding.
On Thursday, the House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee held a hearing to examine potential nursing home regulatory changes to promote accountability and transparency in the industry.
Lawmakers discussed revising the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) nursing home database to include the names' of the owners in an effort to improve transparency. Recent, large-scale mergers and takeovers within the nursing home industry have lead to a lack of transparency regarding current ownership of individual facilities. Witnesses at Thursday's hearing stated that ambiguity can lead to a decrease in the quality of care and accountability.
A report released on the same day by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found serious inadequacies in nursing homes surveyors and criticized CMS for its lack of oversight and supervision of the quality of nursing homes. The report offered several recommendations to CMS and Acting Administrator, Kerry Weems, told the subcommittee that the Department of Health & Human Services has "fully endorsed" the recommendations and intends to implement them.
A Senate bill introduced in February, the Nursing Home Transparency and Improvement Act (S.2641), aims to address these issues of disclosure and oversight. The bill's sponsors, Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member, Charles Grassley (R-IA), and Senate Aging Committee Chairman, Herb Kohl (D-WI), hope to attach the bill to Medicare legislation later this year.
Senate leaders appear to be close to an agreement on privacy provisions in health information technology legislation sponsored by Health, Education, Labor, and Pension (HELP) Committee Chairman, Edward Kennedy (D-MA).
The Wired for Health Care Quality Act (S.1693) would assist hospitals and physicians in purchasing electronic healthcare technology. Proponents of the bill believe that nationwide interoperability for health information technology will save billions of healthcare dollars.
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has expressed concerns regarding the legislation's lack of privacy protections. However, the Senator stated last week that he and the bill's sponsors had reached a deal and a new version of the bill will include changes to make it easier for patients to access their personal electronic records, but more difficult for healthcare providers to divulge personal health records for marketing or other purposes.
With this possible agreement on privacy provisions, sponsors of the legislation stated last week that they hope to pass the bill via unanimous consent during the week of May 19th.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Veterans' Health Care
Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee
9:30 a.m., 418 Russell
Breast Cancer Research Bills
House Energy and Commerce - Subcommittee on Health
10 a.m., 2123 Rayburn
Bidding for Durable Medical Equipment
House Small Business - Subcommittee on Rural and Urban Entrepreneurship
10 a.m., 1539 Longworth
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Veterans Health Administration Human Resource Challenges
House Veterans' Affairs - Subcommittee on Health
10 a.m., 334 Cannon
Exotic Disease Research
House Energy and Commerce - Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations
10 a.m., 2123 Rayburn
Senate Special Aging Committee
10:30 a.m., 216 Hart
Veterans' Benefits Administration
House Veterans' Affairs - Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs
1 p.m., 340 Cannon
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