This vote was on killing an amendment by Judd Gregg, R-N.H., that would have required certification that all new spending in the health care overhaul law be paid for by means other than reducing Medicare funding. The amendment was offered to a bill that would revise a major health care and student loan overhaul law cleared by the House the night before. A bill is “cleared” when one chamber of Congress passes a bill that has already been passed by the other chamber; once a bill is “cleared” it is sent to the president. The law being changed aims to expand the availability of health care coverage for some 31 million Americans that are not currently covered.
Gregg said the health care law pays for some of its health insurance expansion through cutting $520 billion in Medicare-related spending. This occurs principally because the law eliminates a program known as Medicare Advantage. Medicare Advantage is an HMO plan – where a person receives comprehensive health care coverage, but must use a certain pre-approved network of doctors, hospitals and pharmacies. It is slightly more comprehensive than traditional Medicare “fee for service” plans, but also costs more money, which critics say goes to line insurers’ pockets.
“That money is then taken and used to create new entitlements for people who are not seniors and who have, for the most part, not paid into the Medicare trust fund. That is wrong. Medicare is in serious trouble. We should use the Medicare savings in this bill for the purposes of making Medicare more solvent. That is exactly what this amendment does. It keeps Medicare savings in the Medicare trust fund and uses them to make Medicare more solvent,” Gregg said.
Baucus said Gregg’s is a “killer amendment” because it is “designed to prevent spending.”
“That means it will take away tax credits to middle Americans to help them buy insurance. This amendment would take it away. It would kill the assistance to seniors for prescription drugs. It would take that away. It would take away assistance to States. That is why it is a killer amendment,” Baucus said. “I proudly support this bill. Why? This bill reduces insurance costs for working-class and middle-class Americans, expands Medicare prescription drug coverage to more than 3 million seniors, provides immediate tax credits for nearly 4 million small businesses, stops $6 billion in annual government subsidies for banks, and puts money into college grants for students and their families.”
By a vote of 56-42, the motion to kill the amendment was agreed to. All but two Democrats present voted to kill the amendment. Every Republican present voted against killing it. The end result is that the health care reconciliation bill went forward without language that would have required certification that all new spending in the health care overhaul be paid for from sources other than Medicare funding.