Two high priority issues are on the Congressional agenda: passage of a budget resolution for the year, and proposals to block a scheduled multi-billion dollar cut in physician payment rates under Medicare.
Two high priority issues are on the Congressional agenda: passage of a budget resolution for the year, and proposals to block a scheduled multi-billion dollar cut in physician payment rates under Medicare. Members of Congress had moved close to passage of a budget resolution before adjourning for Memorial Day, but procedural difficulties with legislation to reauthorize farm programs got in the way. Completion of the budget resolution will set the stage for appropriations work later in the summer. With the clock ticking down to a July 1st deadline, it's becoming all but a certainty that Congress will approve limited legislation to postpone—not do away with—physician pay cuts under Medicare. This is likely to mean that proposals to expand Medicare's benefit package, such as by establishing coverage of counselors, will fall by the wayside.
Also awaiting action is legislation to prohibit private health insurance plans from covering mental health and addictive disorder services in a discriminatory fashion. Negotiations between the House and Senate are continuing, with proposals and counterproposals being considered. Advocates are hopeful that an agreement can be reached in time for enactment of a strong mental health parity law this year.
Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts has been a primary proponent of such legislation, as has his son, Representative Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island. Senator Kennedy has been an outstanding and effective champion of health, education, and social policy issues. It is unclear how the news of the Senator's recent diagnosis of having a malignant brain tumor will affect his work in the Senate on this and other legislation. ACA wishes Senator Kennedy and his family all the best in responding to his health challenge.