Senators added a number of amendments of interest to health insurers while deliberating over the 2007 federal budget bill.

The Senate voted 51-49 Thursday to pass the bill, Senate Concurrent Resolution 83, which was introduced by Sen. Gregg Judd, R-N.H.

The original text of the bill includes a section that would permit either the Senate Finance Committee or the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee to use its budget allocation to set up a program to address health care costs, coverage or care for the uninsured.

Any programs for the uninsured that draw on the reserve fund for the uninsured must improve “the transparency of the cost and quality for medical care,” according to the bill text.

Eligible programs also must increase access to care through “tax measures,” “market-based measures” or other measures “targeted to key segments of the uninsured, including individuals without employer-sponsored coverage, college students, recent graduates, or chronically ill individuals,” according to the bill text.

The original bill also creates a reserve fund for health information technology.

Some amendments approved on the Senate floor include:

- Senate Amendment 3004: The amendment would require federal officials to use any savings gained from negotiating for Medicare drug discounts to reduce the budget deficit or improve the Medicare drug benefit program. Passed: 76-22.

- Senate Amendment 3073: The amendment would establish a reserve fund to allow for deficit-neutral legislation that would provide for an extension of the Medicare Part D prescription plan enrollment period. Passed: 54-44.

- Senate Amendment 3114: The amendment would let the HELP Committee use its budget allocation to set up an influenza preparedness program. Passed: 99-1.

Links to additional information about the bill and bill amendments are on the Web at Document Link