August 26, 2021

The Infrastructure Bills: Implications for Bipartisanship and Common-Sense Healthcare Legislation

Ken Perez
Vice President, Healthcare Policy and Government Affairs, Omnicell

How Congress handles two mammoth infrastructure bills will likely set the political tone in Washington through the 2022 midterm elections, and possibly the remainder of President Joe Biden’s term.

The first bill, focused on physical infrastructure – transportation, water systems, power grids, etc. – garnered healthy bipartisan support, passing in the Senate on August 10 with a bipartisan majority vote of 69-30. With 19 Republican senators supporting the bill – including conservative Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), the passage was hailed as a triumph of bipartisanship.

The second, described as a “transformative bill” by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), is a $3.5 trillion human infrastructure spending plan that is already a completely different story.

The plan’s health provisions, which progressives consider must-haves, include:

  • Enhancing Medicare to cover dental, vision and hearing services

  • Expanding home care

  • Funding healthcare for the roughly 2 million people living in the red states that have refused to expand Medicaid

The bill also includes a plan to use an arcane budgeting process that prevents Republicans from filibustering and requires just 50 votes for passage. Not surprisingly, Senate Republicans are uniformly opposed, and some moderate Democrats have expressed concerns about the overall high price tag and potentially large tax increases necessary to pay for it.

So, what are the implications?

If the human infrastructure bill passes as proposed – entirely along party lines – the level of partisan acrimony in Congress would rise, poisoning the well of bipartisanship for at least the remainder of this year. Without some measure of bipartisanship, common-sense bills – including the bipartisan Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act (H.R. 2759/S.1362) – could become stalled, which would not sit well with voters. If, however, concerns over the bill’s cost and funding lead to significant amendments of it, that may signal to moderates on both sides of the aisle an opening for less-ambitious bipartisan bills, allowing members of Congress to cite some common-sense legislative accomplishments before the 2022 midterm elections.

DISCLAIMER

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company. Assumptions made in the analysis are not reflective of the position of any entity other than the author(s). These views are always subject to change, revision, and rethinking at any time and may not be held in perpetuity.

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