Rep. Armey predicts home health reform in 106th Congress

By MATTHEW HAY

HHBR Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON – House Majority Leader Rep. Dick Armey (R-TX) predicted over the weekend that Congress will act to reform the Medicare home healthcare benefit in this session of Congress. "Home healthcare needs addressing," said Armey at a legislative briefing Jan. 17. Armey’s remarks regarding home health were brief, but notworthy, given that it was one of only three healthcare items he specifically slated for action. The other areas Armey noted were HMO reform and a tax break for self-insured workers.

Armey also blasted the Health Care Financing Administration (Baltimore) for not completing the home health regulations for the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 (BBA). It’s been the "tradition of Congress," said Armey, "to leave open ends in the law." Some agencies "overstate the regulations" and bring about "legislative aftershock" while others never get around to writing them at all. "This one of the problems we have in home healthcare today," said Armey. "The Health Care Financing Administration never wrote the regulations pursuant to the Budget Act of 1997 and, of course, it has worked terrible hardship on a lot of families."

Armey, who as Majority Leader has considerable influence over the legislative calendar, said that in all of "the hours and hours and hours" of recent Congressional discussions, impeachment has not dominated Congress’ attention. "We are clearly developing a detailed agenda for the next Congress," he said, adding that Social Security reform will be the single most import issue facing the 106th Congress. "I’m not prepared to tell you now what tax package you will see," Armey added, "but I am prepared to tell you there will be a tax package this year, and it will move forward."