Healthcare Thursday

NEWS:

— Workers on the doomed Deepwater Horizon rig feared they would be punished if they reported safety hazards, according to a confidential survey conducted by the rig operator, Transocean, and obtained by the New York Times. “Some workers also voiced concerns about poor equipment reliability, ‘which they believed was as a result of drilling priorities taking precedence over planned maintenance,’” the Times writes.  

The report arrives the same day that Steve Flynn, BP’s vice president of health, safety, security and environment, will testify before a labor subpanal of the Senate HELP Committee. Though this marks the second time Chairman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) will examine offshore worker safety since the Deepwater Horizon disaster in April, it’s the first time a representative of BP will appear.

— Eight days of digestion later, the American Medical Association (AMA) on Wednesday reacted to CMS’s new (and final) “meaningful use” rules governing providers who hope to tap generous incentive payments for adopting health information systems. While the doctors group notes “an improvement over previous drafts,” it’s also warning that the 20 measures CMS is requiring physicians to report in the first year will be overly burdensome, particularly for those practicing alone or in small groups. 

— Consumers Union is going after the Blues for hoarding billions of dollars in cash reserves while simultaneously hitting customers with double-digit rate hikes, USA Today reports

CALENDAR:

— Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) will tackle comparative effective research at a Thursday morning healthcare forum sponsored by the Partnership to Improve Patient Care (PIPC). Also speaking will be Tony Coelho, the former California congressman who now chairs the PIPC; Joyce Dubow, director of healthcare reform at AARP; and Jennifer Luray, a vice president of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a cancer group.

— Don Blankenship, the head of the Appalachian coal giant Massey Energy, will speak at the National Press Club this afternoon. The company, and its pugnacious CEO, have come under fire since April, when an enormous explosion at a Massey mine in southern West Virginia killed 29 workers and maimed a 30th. Massey workers — at that project and others — have said the company systematically ignores worker safety rules in order to harvest coal more efficiently. 

Blankenship’s appearance comes just one day after a House panel approved legislation bolstering federal mine safety rules in response to the West Virginia disaster.   

— The House Veterans Affairs Health Subcommittee meets Thursday morning to examine the challenges posed in treating the physical injuries of war.

— The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s oversight subpanel will gather to examine direct-to-consumer genetic testing.

— The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on State, Local and Private Sector Preparedness and Integration meets to discus strategies for improving the delivery of medical help during catastrophes.

— House Democrats will host an afternoon news conference to mark the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.