The House Energy and Commerce Committee yesterday gave new life to an old compromise by authorizing $64.9 million for health planning this fiscal year, while letting states curb local planning agencies.
In the same measure, which passed by a 26-to-15 vote, the committee gave the House Appropriations Committee a blank check to support the health planning system with whatever funds it sees fit in fiscal 1984 and 1985.
The health planning system, a regulatory network established in 1974 to help put the brakes on accelerating health care costs, has been a target of conservative criticism. Since 1980, the program's federal support has declined more than 60 percent.
Doctors have objected particularly to the requirement that state planning agencies grant a "certificate of need" before a hospital spends more than $600,000 on new equipment or expanson, and the one that local agencies participate in that decision.
Yesterday's measure, which died in the Senate last fall, gives states the right to raise to $1 million the threshold before a certificate of need is required. It also lets states determine the role of local agencies.
Whatever the arguments over the program's future, Congress and the states have a incentive to keep it alive. A section of the Social Security law enacted this year said states must have a planning program by Oct. 1, 1986, if their hospitals want Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement for capital expenditures.