Senate HELP Committee passes Kennedy bill; providers worry about companion House plan

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The late Sen. Edward Kennedy
The late Sen. Edward Kennedy
As fallout from the House healthcare reform plan continued to rain down Wednesday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee passed its own reform proposal.

The 13-10 HELP vote to approve the measure was split along party lines. The Edward Kennedy (D-MA)-sponsored bill received much initial criticism after a Congressional Budget Office report showed it could cost more than $1 trillion. Unaccounted for provisions, including a public insurance option, however, subsequently dropped the price tag to a $600 billion cost estimate. One key provision of the HELP plan would establish a national long-term care and disability insurance program that would help pay for rehab and skilled nursing services in the event of a disability.

Meanwhile, scrutiny of the recently announced House plan continued, with at least one senior-care advocacy group appearing worried. “We are concerned about Medicare provisions for skilled nursing facilities,” said the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, “especially the loss of the payment update for three quarters of 2010.” The providers association also criticized a provision that would cut Medicare reimbursements for hospice providers by 3.2% annually.