KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Senate Subcommittee Approves HHS Funding Bill, Other Health Care Bills Readied

CongressDaily: The Senate Labor-Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee approved a draft funding bill Tuesday for HHS, "moving a bill that would provide $170 billion in discretionary spending to related federal agencies, nearly $1 billion under the president's request." The bill gives $732 billion to the Department of Health and Human Services, $306 million more than the administration requested. "The House Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee gave the health agency a similar boost in funding." Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the subcommittee chairman, said he had "three priorities for the bill, which included helping Americans who are out of work, increasing federal dollars' efficiency by reducing fraud in Medicare and booting up agency inspectors general budgets, and encouraging reform efforts." Cut from the bill, however, were 23 programs Harkin said were "duplicative and inefficient," including $75 million for State Health Access grants, which uses money to get states to increase health coverage. "Committee staff said the access grants were no longer necessary due to funding in the healthcare overhaul law." A full committee markup is expected Thursday (McCarthy, 7/28).

In the meantime, The Hill reports that Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., said she will introduce a bill Wednesday that would extend the nation's minimum wage to home care workers who care for the sick and elderly in America. The AARP supports the concept of the bill. "Supporters argue that reform is long overdue. In 1974, Congress expanded the FLSA wage protections to many domestic workers, including most direct care workers, such as certified nursing assistants and home health aides. But lawmakers also carved out an exemption for those providing simple 'companionship services.'" The bill would change that (Lillis, 7/27).

The Hill, in a second story: A bill that would authorize health programs for 9/11 workers is scheduled for a vote Wednesday. "The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act would formally authorize health programs that have been appropriated for the past several years. The measure, which would cover 50,000 responders and survivors in the wake of 9/11 attacks, creates a mandatory spending program until it sunsets 10 years from now." Some Republicans say the bill is unfair because veterans' health care spending must go through an annual appropriations process while this would not (Pecquet, 7/27).

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