House Backs Controversial Delay of New Organ Allocation Policy
Senate GOP leadership staff defended the longer delay. "Congress has very strong feelings, and it is a very modest delay," one aide said. "It's just 48 days for Congress to have its voice heard," another staffer commented, adding, "Lott would have preferred a year moratorium."
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D, S.D.) appeared resigned to the GOP maneuver. "It shouldn't be in there. I wish it weren't in there," he told reporters. "[But] that's another issue that will have to be addressed next year."
According to Bill Applegate, a Washington official for the American Society of Transplantation, the issue is going to be red-hot next year. "This issue is not going to be put to rest with a simple moratorium," he tells WebMD. Noting that some lawmakers have introduced bills to take away much of the current federal oversight of the policy, he says, "You'll see this stuff the day they get back."
Meanwhile, the final HHS appropriations measure that the House approved yesterday 296-135 grants the department $239 billion, or $24 billion more than last year. Of that total, the NIH gets a healthy $17.9 billion -- $2.3 billion more than last year. The CDC's funding is $3 billion, about $190 million over last year's figure.
The Medicare "giveback" legislation passed with the HHS funding measure would bail providers out to the tune of $16 billion over the next five years, by restoring allegedly excessive cuts in their reimbursement from the Balanced Budget Act of 1997.
Doctors received little directly in the package, although it attempts to remedy problems in the formula used to calculate physician payment updates, a cost-neutral move. The measure also includes expanded Medicare coverage of immuno-suppressive drugs. The Administration supports the giveback bill, although Jennings said yesterday that HMOs received excessive assistance.