Health Provisions in the Tax Extenders Legislation
Chairmen of the House and Senate tax-writing committees, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Sander Levin (D-MI) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT), introduced the “The American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010″ (H.R. 4213 amended) on May 20. This longer-term tax and benefits extension package includes a four-year Medicare “doc fix” that further delays physician payment cuts, and extends the COBRA premium subsidy increase through Dec. 31, 2010.
Congressional leaders are focused on passing the bill before the Memorial Day recess, which is scheduled to begin May 28. At this time, it is not clear whether congressional leaders have the votes needed to win passage of the newly released extenders bill in both chambers. A number of fiscally conservative Democrats and Republicans are reportedly concerned about the overall cost of the package, which is still being scored by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and is expected to have a price tag of approximately $200 billion over ten years.
Financial Reform Legislation Clears Senate without Feinstein, Leahy Amendments
By a vote of 59 to 39 on May 20, the Senate approved the “Restoring American Financial Stability Act,” S.3217. Four Republicans broke with their party to vote in favor of the bill: Maine Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, Senator Scott Brown (MA) and Ranking Member on the Finance Committee Charles Grassley (IA). Two Democrats, Senators Russ Feingold (WI) and Maria Cantwell (WA), opposed the measure, saying that the bill’s provisions did not clamp down hard enough on Wall Street.
The legislation did not include two amendments relevant to health insurers:
- A measure by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to create a federal authority to review health insurance rates; and
- An amendment offered by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) that would have amended the “McCarran-Ferguson Act” to state that it does not prevent the application of federal anti-trust laws to the “business of health insurance.”