Senate Finance Committee Approves Health Care Plan

By Weiler, Laura | Nation's Cities Weekly, June 23, 1997 | Go to article overview

Senate Finance Committee Approves Health Care Plan


Weiler, Laura, Nation's Cities Weekly


The Senate Finance Committee began action last week on its version of a new health care plan that will affect Medicaid and Medicare spending for the poor and elderly in cities and towns.

With two exceptions -- children's health and Medicare means-testing -- the Committee's plan is similar to that passed by the House Commerce Committee earlier this month. Both the House and Senate plans will be voted on as part of the budget reconciliation package.

The budget agreement sets aside $16 billion for expanded health care coverage for 10 million uninsured children in the United States. The House plan would distribute the money in block grants to states over a five year period, giving states great freedom in deciding how to distribute the money to children in need.

Fearing that blocks grants would not reach needy children, the committee first tried to restrict the spending options available to states, but that plan was defeated. Instead, an alternative by Chairman Bill Roth (R-Del.) was adopted that allows states to choose to receive the money either through block grants or enhanced Medicaid funding. If states choose the block grants, they would have to provide coverage for children equal to that of the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program and receive certification from the Secretary of Health and Human Services that this requirement was met.

Medicare

The Committee adopted a controversial amendment sponsored by Sen. Bob Kerry (D-Neb.) that would, for the first time in the history of the Medicare program, introduce a meaningful means-testing system to determine benefits for Medicare recipients. Medicare is the program that provides seniors with health care benefits.

Under Kerry's amendment, seniors with higher incomes will be required to pay a larger percent of their medical bills than seniors with lower incomes. …

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