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October 26, 2007

2007

October 26, 2007

Headline

House Passes Revised State Children's Health Insurance Program Bill, Bush Threatens Veto

The House of Representative again passed legislation reauthorizing and expanding the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). The bill provides $35 billion over 10 years to provide health insurance to approximately 10 million children whose family assets exceed State Medicaid levels, but are unable to afford private health insurance. In an effort to expand Republican support for the bill, Democrats made three changes to the bill which included;

  • Accelerating the "phasing out" of existing adults covered in the SCHIP program
  • Granting states the option to require documentation of citizenship in order the strengthen the underlying ban on coverage for illegal immigrants;
  • Including an explicit cap on eligibility, likely at 300% above the federal poverty level

As in the previous version of the bill, the legislation is funded by a $0.61 per pack federal tax on tobacco products.

While the bill passed the House with a bipartisan majority, it still fell short of the 2/3 majority required to override a presidential veto. The White House has indicated that it still has concerns regarding the legislation and the President will veto the revised legislation should it reach his desk. At this point, it is unclear if Congress and the White House will continue to negotiate to reach a compromise on the legislation.

Clean Air

CDC Testifies on Climate Change, White House Accused of Editing CDC Testimony

CDC Direct Julie Gerberding MD presented testimony before the Senate Environment and Public Work Committee on the public health effects of climate change. While her comments before the committee were noteworthy, it is the contents removed from the written testimony by White House staff that appears to be getting all the attention. Her original 14 pages of written comments were reduced to 6 after the White House staff removed sections not considered to be scientifically justified. News reports indict that the sections which were removed cited research indicating that climate change will result in several public health challenges in the U.S. including respiratory problems from increased ozone and pollen exposures, increased disease from mosquito-born disease, heat stroke and water scarcity some regions. The redacted testimony reportedly also included comments on food shortages in the developing world.

COPD

Senate Provides Increase for NIH and CDC in L-HHS Bill

Senators Crapo, Lincoln Call for CDC Plan on COPD During the Senate floor debate of the L-HHS Appropriations bill, Senators Crapo (R-ID) and Lincoln (D-AR) called upon Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to develop a response plan to COPD in the U.S.  In a colloquy with Sen. Harkin (D-IA) and Sen. Specter (R-PA), respective chair and ranking member of the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Subcommittee, Senators Crapo and Lincoln sought the chair and ranking member's assistance in working with CDC to develop a response plan.  During the exchange, Sen. Harkin and Sen. Specter pledged their support to ensure CDC's response and begin development of a COPD response plan.

Health Research

Senate Passes Annual Health Research and Services Spending Bill

On October 23, the Senate passed its version of the Fiscal Year 2008 Labor-Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations (Labor-HHS-ED) bill by a veto-proof majority of 75 to 19. This annual spending bill funds all health research and services. Before passing the bill, in a bid to make it more acceptable to President Bush, the Senate removed a provision that would have expanded federal support for stem cell research, but the President has not rescinded his veto threat against the bill because it is $23 billion in spending above the administration's 2008 budget.

The Senate Labor-HHS-ED bill includes a 3.5% increase for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), while the bill passed by the House in July includes a 2.6% increase. Both bills would subtract 5% ($300 million) from NIH's budget for the global AIDS fund. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also fares slightly better under the Senate bill, where it receives a 4.3% increase over the 4.0% increase in the House Labor-HHS bill.

The bill now goes to a conference committee, where differences between the two bills will be worked out. The conference is expected to be concluded early in the first week of November so that it may sent for final House and Senate floor votes later that week.

How to Take Action
ATS members and friends are asked to contact their House Representatives and Senators to request support for the higher Senate allocation of $1 billion in additional funding for NIH in the final FY 2008 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill. Call 1-202-224-3121 and ask for your Representative/Senator, or give your zipcode if you do not know their name. When you are connected to an office, ask for the Health Legislative Assistant.

Medicare

Bill Introduced to Allow Medicare Reimbursement for Home RT Services

Representative Mike Ross (D-AR) introduced legislation (H.R. 3938) that would allow respiratory therapists with a bachelor's degree and demonstrated competencies to provide selected home services for Medicare beneficiaries. The selected services would include patient education and monitoring services. Under the legislation, respiratory therapy services would be provided under the general supervision of a physician and would be compensated at 85% of Medicare physician fee schedule charge for that service.

In a letter of support for the legislation, ATS President David Ingbar MD says, "the legislation will give physicians and advanced respiratory therapists the flexibility to provide needed care to Medicare beneficiaries in the outpatient, physician's office or patient's home."

Parallel legislation is expected to be introduced in the Senate.



Points of Contact

Gary Ewart Senior Director, Government Relations
Nuala Moore Senior Legislative Representative
Joe Kirby DC Office Administrator