KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Senate Poised To Pass COBRA Subsidy Extension, Medicare ‘Doc Fix’

The Senate is set to vote Wednesday on a jobs bill that would extend the COBRA subsidy program and Medicaid funding for states and prevent a Medicare reimbursement cut for doctors.

The Associated Press: The bill "extends health insurance subsidies for the unemployed through December. It would add $132 billion to the budget deficit over the next year and a half. ... In states with the highest jobless rates people are eligible to receive benefits for up to 99 weeks. A 65 percent health insurance subsidy for the unemployed under the COBRA program adds about another $10 billion. Federal cash to help states with Medicaid adds about $25 billion more."

"Eight Republicans voted with Democrats to defeat a GOP filibuster of the measure, setting up a final vote on Wednesday" (Taylor, 3/10).

Newly-elected Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., joined Democrats yesterday in voting to cut off debate, The Wall Street Journal reports. "One Democrat, Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, voted against the measure. The House approved a similar measure last year ... the bill prolongs several tax breaks, including those for research and development. It also adjusts payments to doctors under the Medicare program, preventing a budgeted 21% reduction" (Bendavid, 3/10).

Bloomberg: "The bill, partially financed by offsetting savings, would add $97 billion to the government's budget deficit, according to the Congressional Budget Office. 'This is not just some technical bill -- this measure helps real people,' said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat" (Faler, 3/10).

Meanwhile, "Acting House Ways and Means Chairman Sander Levin said Tuesday the House might have its own ideas about a $140 billion package of tax, health and jobless benefit provisions moving toward Senate approval today," Congress Daily reports. "Levin said Tuesday night that House Democrats are concerned about the Senate's use of nearly $40 billion in offsets the Obama administration has set aside for healthcare legislation, which is in its own delicate stage of negotiations. He said Ways and Means Democrats will discuss the Senate bill at a meeting today. 'I wouldn't be surprised if there was a conference,' Levin said, which would be a rarity for tax bills in recent years" (Cohn, 3/10).

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