Health Reform Expected to Be Moving Next Week in House; Prospects for Fiscal Relief Remain Good – Say Ahhh! A Children’s Health Policy Blog

Brace yourselves for a hectic few weeks leading up to the
Congressional recess.  According to
CQ, House leadership is preparing for a possible final vote on health reform as
soon as next week.  It is still
unclear whether or not they have the votes to pass the measure, which would
actually be the Senate bill along with a reconciliation bill that includes
agreed-upon “fixes” to the Senate bill.

The process of moving the legislation through the House
is expected to begin Monday in the House Budget Committee. The next stop would
be the Rules Committee then the floor. 
We are expecting to see the actual legislative language of the final
bill on Tuesday after which members (and the rest of us) would have at least 72
hours to review it before a vote is taken.

There are a number of procedural questions that remain to
be answered but if all goes well, the bill could be on the House floor for a
final vote around March 19th or 20th. Members have been told to prepare for a vote at the end of the week, staying
through the weekend if necessary. 
Then, of course, the Senate still would need to pass the “fixes”
included in the reconciliation package.

Right about now, you probably have to “pinch” yourselves
to make sure you’re not dreaming this. 
Believe me, I had to pinch myself while writing it.  In a sign that health reform really is
moving forward again, President Obama postponed his March 18th trip to
Indonesia so that he would be around for the final push for passage in the

Now, back down to earth … In other developments impacting
health coverage, the Senate moved forward as expected on fiscal relief to
states through an extension of the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP)
increase as part of the American Workers, State, and Business Relief Act (aka
“jobs bill”).  The House already
has passed the FMAP provisions. The jobs bill is now moving through the final stages of the legislative
process and, as always, it’s not cut and dry.  However, the outlook for enactment of the FMAP provision
still looks positive, which is good news for the country’s children.  As we noted in a new analysis, when
families lose their jobs, they often lose employer-based coverage and turn to
Medicaid and CHIP, especially for their kids.  In fact, children represent more than 60 percent of those
who have gained Medicaid coverage over the past year.  If the Medicaid program doesn’t remain
strong in the months ahead in the face of persistently high unemployment and
ongoing state budget problems, we can expect that children will be particularly
hard hit.

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