Despite a rare bipartisan agreement in the House over "a sweeping bipartisan solution to several policy problems that have long vexed Congress," Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid stands to thwart it, insisting that the deal expands a federal law prohibiting taxpayer dollars from being spent on abortions.
The so-called "doc fix" deal, according to The New York Times
, would provide a long-term solution to Medicare payments made to doctors and extend for two years popular healthcare programs for children and the poor.
House Speaker John Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi have struck a deal, but Reid and some fellow Dems argue that a provision in the bill that bars community health centers from using federal funds on abortion amounts to an expansion of the Hyde Amendment, which restricts the use of taxpayer dollars for abortions.
Pelosi has split with Reid over the issue, countering that community health centers are already subject to Hyde Amendment provisions under an executive order signed by President Barack Obama in 2010, according to the Washington Times
, which notes that the provision would expire alongside the funding in two years.
More perplexing about Reid's position, according to The New York Times, is that community health centers don't provide abortions.
"I do not know of a single community health center that has performed a single abortion any time anywhere in my 45 years in the business of working with community health centers," Daniel R. Hawkins Jr., a senior vice president of the National Association of Community Health Centers, which represents 9,000 U.S. clinics, told the newspaper.
"Community health centers provide prenatal care, delivery services and postpartum care to half a million women a year."
The April 1 deadline is fast approaching for doctors to take a 20 percent payment cut from Medicare if a solution is not reached before then.
The House version of the bill offers compromise from both sides of the aisle, according to The New York Times.
It would permanently remove the threat of deep cuts in payments made to Medicare doctors and would require some high-income Medicare beneficiaries to pay higher premiums. It would also provide $7.2 billion for community health centers and renew the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for two years.
Community health centers are important in areas of the country where there is a shortage of doctors, according to the newspaper.
Reid believes Pelosi is unnecessarily giving up too much to the GOP when she has Boehner "over a barrel," a Reid aide told the National Journal
In addition to their opposition to the Hyde Amendment language, Reid and some fellow Democrats want the CHIP extension to be four years instead of two.
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