Healthcare shunted aside: Economy dominates as Congress prepares for recess

Hospital lobbyists are playing a game of “Beat the Clock” with Congress, eyeing a handful of healthcare provisions that they want to see pushed through in what could be the final week of the legislative session. Federal lawmakers are expected to exit Washington on Sept. 26, freeing up congressional members to campaign in their home districts before the November elections. Even so, some members may get called back into action to deal with the fallout from the unsteady banking and lending sector, House leaders said.

The dwindling time left coupled with the turmoil in the financial markets have worked against pending healthcare initiatives on Capitol Hill, potentially kicking them over to a new president and Congress, said Richard Pollack, executive vice president of the American Hospital Association. “It’s unclear what they can get done and what they can’t get done,” he said.

There are a number of hospital-backed measures under consideration (See table, p. 9). Legislators also are showing signs that a much-wanted change to how Medicare reimburses physicians may also stay on the backburner for a while (See story, below).

But a separate bill requiring companies to offer mental health benefits on par with physical health benefits—also backed by the AHA—could pass this week. As of Sept. 19, the bill used restrictions on physician ownership of hospitals as a means to help pay for the legislation, though it’s uncertain whether it will stick.

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