Senate Budget Deal May Give a Boost to Health Programs

Republican and Democratic leaders in the Senate announced a two-year budget deal on Feb. 7 that would increase federal spending for defense as well as key domestic priorities, including many health programs, NPR reports.


Not in the deal, for which the path to the president's desk remains unclear, is any bipartisan legislation aimed at shoring up the Affordable Care Act's individual health insurance marketplaces, NPR shares. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., promised Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a vote on health legislation in exchange for her vote for the GOP tax bill in December. So far, NPR notes, that vote hasn't materialized.

NPR shares that the deal does appear to include almost every other health priority Democrats have been pushing the past several months, including two years of renewed funding for community health centers and a series of other health programs Congress failed to provide for before they technically expired last year.

"I believe we have reached a budget deal that neither side loves but both sides can be proud of," said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on the Senate floor. "That's compromise. That's governing."

According to NPR, documents circulating on Capitol Hill indicate the deal includes $6 billion in funding for treatment of mental health issues and opioid addiction, $2 billion in extra funding for the National Institutes of Health, and an additional four-year extension of the Children's Health Insurance Program, which builds on the six years approved by Congress last month.

In the Medicare program, the deal would accelerate the closing of the "doughnut hole" in Medicare drug coverage that requires seniors to pay thousands of dollars out-of-pocket before catastrophic coverage kicks in. It would also repeal the controversial Medicare Independent Payment Advisory Board, which is charged with holding down Medicare spending for the federal government if it exceeds a certain level.

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