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October 9, 2009


October 9, 2009

Senate Finance Committee to Vote on Final Healthcare Reform Overhaul

The Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Sen. Baucus (D-MT), has scheduled final votes on the committee's healthcare reform overhaul bill, the American's Healthy Future Act, for Tuesday, October 13. This follows the Congressional Budget Office's release earlier this week of a preliminary cost analysis that estimates that the legislation will cost $829 billion over 10 years but will be fully paid for through a combination of taxes and Medicare cuts. CBO estimates the bill actually save $81 billion in federal spending over 10 years and will expand health insurance to 94 percnet of all Americans.

Following Finance Committee passage, the next step for the Senate healthcarereform bill will be the merging of itl with a version passed by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee in July. Senate floor votes on the final healthcare reform package are expected to begin the week of October 19.

The House, meanwhile, is working on finalizing its bill. One of the key issues still to be determined is provider payment rates under the public health insurance option included in the House bill. The current bill includes negotiated rates between the Health and Human Services Secretary and providers, but many House members are pushing for payment rates to be set at Medicare rates plus 5 percent in order to reduce overall health system costs. An additional proposal under consideration is a "trigger," that would implement Medicare plus 5 percent rates after a certain period of time if payment rates negotiated by the HHS Secretary fail to reduce healthcare costs.

Health Care Reform: ATS Outlines Priorities in Senate Healthcare Reform Bill

The ATS has sent a letter to the Senate Finance Committee supporting the intent of the American's Healthy Future Act to expand access to affordable healthcare, reform the private health insurance market, and improve quality. The letter outlines measures in the bill that the ATS supports and provides recommendations for improvement in other areas.

The letter reiterates the ATS's support for universal health coverage with a public insurance option as an effective way to expand coverage and reduce costs, and the bill's measures to expand access to preventative services and promote chronic disease management. In continuation of the ATS's advocacy in support of improved end-of-life care, the letter urges Senators to include Medicare coverage of end-of-life care consultations in final legislation.

The ATS letter also urges the Senate to provide permanent reforms to both the Medicare sustainable growth rate formula to prevent physician payment cuts and the medical liability system. Concerning quality improvement reporting, the ATS recommends flexibility in measuring hospital acquired infections in hospital performance.

The ATS Washington Office will continue to be active on all of the issues outlined above as the Senate and House healthcare reform bills advance.

Clean Air: EPA to Reconsider Particulate Matter NAAQS

This week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it will reconsider the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for particulate matter. EPA announced that it will issue a new proposed NAAQS for particulate matter in July 2010 with a final rule expected in April of 2011.

Under the Bush Administration, the EPA established the following NAAQS for particulate matter:

  • 15 µg/m3 for the average annual standard
  • 35 µg/m3 for the 24-hour standard
  • 98th percentile used for compliance determination; and

The above standard was stricter than the previous standard for the 24-hour exposure. Despite recommendations from EPA staff, however, the Bush Administration left in place the average annual standard for particulate matter.

The announcement was in response to a suit brought by the environmental community that charged the Bush Administration failed to comply with the Clean Air Act in establishing the above standard for particulate matter. The U.S. District Court of Appeals agreed and remanded the standard to EPA. The ATS believes a stricter standard is needed to protect the public health and will advocate for a standard of:

  • 12 µg/m3 for the average annual standard
  • 25 µg/m3 for the 24-hour standard
  • 99th percentile used for compliance determination

Points of Contact

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