WEDNESDAY, Jan. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Twenty-one hours after the
U.S. Senate did its part to steer the country clear of the
so-called fiscal cliff, the House of Representatives settled on an
11th-hour agreement late Tuesday night that averted widespread tax
increases and spending cuts that were set to kick in Jan. 1.
But the House vote was in doubt much of the day and into Tuesday
evening, with many Republicans opposing the tax increases contained
in the bill while favoring steeper spending cuts to further reduce
the nation's debt.
The bill will now go on to President Barack Obama who is
expected to quickly sign it into law.
"This shouldn't be the model for how to do things around here," Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said just after 1:30 a.m. Tuesday, The New York Timesreported. "But I think we can say we've done some good for the country."
McConnell worked with Vice President Joseph Biden to secure the
Senate's 89-8 vote, a rare show of bipartisanship in Washington. He
recommended that the entire Congress act quickly to pass the
measure and "continue to work on finding smarter ways to cut
spending" in the coming months, the
The House vote was more fractured, with Democrats voting for the
bill by an overwhelming 172-16 margin while Republicans opposed it
The bill prevents a 27 percent cut in fees paid to doctors who
treat Medicare patients. It also blocks middle-class taxes from
going up but raises taxes on wealthier Americans. And it delays
legislatively mandated spending cuts for two months, among other
Failure to reach agreement on heading off spending cuts could
have had a significant effect on health care in the United States,
Kaiser Health News.
For instance, Medicare providers would have seen an $11 billion
cut in payments in fiscal year 2013. According to a September
report from the Office of Management and Budget, hospitals would
have been hit hardest by the cuts, with payments slashed by about
Kaiser Health Newsreported.
Seniors would have experienced no changes in their benefits,
however, and Medicaid would not have faced any automatic cuts on
The National Institutes of Health would have had to contend with
a $2.5 billion cut in funding for 2013, which would mean the agency
would "have to halt or curtail scientific research," according to
the OMB analysis.
Other federal agencies would have faced funding cuts as well,
such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ($490
million), and the Food and Drug Administration ($318 million),
Kaiser Health Newssaid.
Dr. David Katz, director of Yale University School of Medicine's
Prevention Research Center, tried to put the debate over the fiscal
cliff and its potential impact on health care in layman's
"To some extent, talk of a 'fiscal cliff' and its implications can seem remote. But there is a very personal element to all of this. If Medicare reimbursement is slashed, the federal government will, in essence, be cutting the income -- along with raising the taxes -- of physicians who don't work for the federal government. This certainly makes Washington gridlock personal for all of my fee-for-service colleagues. If they, in turn, translate resentment of this heavy-handed imposition into practice, this may get personal for Medicare patients who have a harder time accessing care."
And, he added, "massive cuts to the NIH (National Institutes of
Health) budget may seem remote and impersonal -- unless the
research that isn't funded as a result would have saved your life,
or that of someone you love. Cuts to CDC (the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention) may seem remote -- unless you are a victim
of a neglected disease outbreak, or of a preventable chronic
disease no longer the focus of research and programming.
"And cuts to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) budget may be someone else's problem, until the drug you need is languishing in the approval process; a drug is approved that should not have been and imposes its toxicity on you; or the uninspected food on your table is a vehicle for salmonella or E. coli," Katz said.
For more on how the so-called fiscal cliff might affect health
care in the United States, visit
Kaiser Health News.
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