Healthcare Wednesday

NEWS: 

It was predictable that the healthcare and finance reform bills would prove a boon to Washington's top lobbying firms. The Hill's Kevin Bogardus and Andrew Stiles crunched the latest lobbying disclosures, filed Tuesday, to prove it. 

Patton Boggs, for instance, has pulled in $20.8 million in lobbying fees this year, up 12 percent from this point in 2009, they report. Not far behind is Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, which reported income of $18.2 million through June, a 13 percent jump above last year's levels.

But will the gravy train keep rolling? Not likely, Bogardus and Stiles report.

“It is tough because it’s an election year," Al Mottur, managing partner of the Washington office of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, told Bogardus and Stiles. "How many days are really left in this Congress? You have a leadership that is very interested in protecting their members and will want to adjourn early in October.”

The head of Anthem Blue Cross in California is stepping down, the L.A. Times reports. The company came under fire earlier in the year for proposing to hike rates by as high as 39 percent. Leslie Margolin, who steered Anthem for more than two years, will become a healthcare consultant. 

An FDA panel voted 12 to 1 Tuesday to disallow breast cancer applications for Avastin, a chemotherapy drug made by a subsidiary of the pharmaceutical giant Roche.

MIXED SIGNALS?

The House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee shot out a statement on Tuesday indicating that the panel on Thursday will examine two bills designed to rein in prescription drug abuse. A few hours later, the sponsor of one of those proposals, the Safe Drug Disposal Act, warned: not so fast. Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) is still tweaking the proposal to lure bipartisan support, his office said Tuesday. "It's no guarantee," a spokesman said, that the bill will be finalized by Thursday.

TWILIGHT ZONE:

House Republicans can usually be counted on to protect the business community from the "overreaching" of reform-minded Democrats. But don't tell Rep. Wally Herger (R-Calif.). The senior Republican on the Ways and Means Health subcommittee went after the White House Tuesday over new "meaningful use" guidelines governing providers' transition to new health information systems. The reason? They go too easy on doctors and hospitals. “Much less is expected of healthcare providers receiving subsidies than what CMS had initially proposed,” Herger said. The lesser requirements, he warned, could lead to “a lower standard and lower compliance rates.”

OVERHEARD:

Desmond Tutu takes a shot at President Obama on Tuesday over international AIDS funding. In a New York Times op-ed, the South African Nobel laureate rues that the White House this year added only $366 million to the President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief, or PEPFAR — "well below the $1 billion per year he promised to add on the campaign trail."

CALENDAR:

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee meets Wednesday to study rare children's diseases. Featured testimony will come from Jesse Goodman, chief scientist at the Food and Drug Administration, and Alan Guttmacher, acting director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

The House Veterans Affairs Committee hosts a hearing to examine treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.

The Senate’s Special Committee on Aging will gather to examine retirement communities offering continuing care.  

On the women’s health front, the Global Health Council hosts a panel discussion on maternal and infant health in low-income areas; and the Coalition for Life Sciences addresses breast cancer screening.

Off of Capitol Hill, the Institute for e-Health Policy gathers in Washington to discuss public health and health IT in a post-reform America.