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Health groups endorse Medicare deal despite CHIP concerns

Health groups endorse Medicare deal despite CHIP concerns
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The $200 billion House deal on Medicare is drawing support from family health advocates, despite concerns from Democrats who say the legislation deprives funding for a children's health program.   

Leaders of the infant health advocacy group March of Dimes endorsed the bill Wednesday, praising lawmakers for acting "well in advance of the scheduled expiration" of the program. Their letter, addressed to House leadership, called for the bill's passage despite “disappointment” that the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is only funded for two years.

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Endorsements also poured in from the American Academy of Family Physicians and a coalition of nine hospital associations — including the American Hospital Association — on Wednesday. Families USA, a major advocate for family and child health services, has already offered strong support for the measures.

The groups' support stands in sharp contrast with First Focus Campaign for Children, which is urging Senate Democrats to keep fighting for four years of CHIP funding.

“The fact that the House did not deliver a stronger investment in children does not mean the debate is over,” the group’s President Bruce Lesley wrote in a letter to senators Wednesday. “The Senate must work its will before this debate ends, and your leadership creates a unique opportunity to deliver what children need.”

The Campaign for Children is among a small number of healthcare groups opposed to the deal.

Outpatient therapy groups like the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and the American Physical Therapy Association are also against the proposal because it does not change a policy known as the “therapy cap.” Under the rule, patients are limited to outpatient treatment based on an annual financial cap.

AARP has also opposed the deal because it hikes up healthcare costs for wealthy seniors.

The sustainable growth rate deal, which was led by Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerWarren, Brown voice support for controversial Biden budget office pick Principles to unify America Feehery: A possible House Speaker conundrum for Democrats MORE (R-Ohio) and endorsed by President Obama on Wednesday, is also garnering support from some liberal groups.

The Center for American Progress urged Congress to pass the deal Wednesday, though it acknowledged, “we would like to see this legislation strengthened.”

“Unless Congress extends funding for these programs now, they will face tremendous uncertainty and risk and could be held hostage in partisan legislation later in the year,” the organization’s policy directors wrote in a release that was also sent out by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s press office.

The bill is expected to easily clear the House, though some of its supporters are worried they won’t be able to avert the latest round of doctor payment cuts on March 31. Thursday could be the last day for Congress to pass the measure, unless the Senate makes a procedural move to take up the bill Friday.