Here’s our rundown of where things stood Thursday evening:
- Committed to a state-based exchange: 17 states and Washington, D.C.
- Planning for a partnership exchange: 5 states
- Have said “no” to a state-based exchange: 20 states
- Undecided: 8 states
Moving on meningitis: It was a big week for lawmakers probing the meningitis outbreak. The Senate followed the House with its own hearing Thursday — Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Margaret Hamburg spoke before the Health Committee and faced questions on why her agency didn't come down harder on the New England Compounding Center (NECC), the pharmacy behind the deaths, over the last decade. In his remarks, committee chief Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) promised action to fight the possibility of future outbreaks linked to compounders.
"This committee has a demonstrated ability to work to find bipartisan solutions that will take into consideration the needs of all stakeholders," he said. "We will work together to identify and plug any gaps in our regulators’ authority."
The Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee also released a bipartisan staff report on the outbreak that found multiple problems with NECC practices leading up to this year. The firm was "cited multiple times for improper use of prescription blanks to solicit orders" and faced questions over its sterility testing, the committee said. There were also two suspected cases of bacterial meningitis linked to NECC products in 2002, according to the report.
Back on the House side, the Energy and Commerce Committee slammed the FDA over requested documents the agency has not provided, maintaining the tough attitude members displayed toward Hamburg in Wednesday's hearing. (Read about that event at Healthwatch.) Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and five other Democrats also called on government investigators to probe drug shortages and whether they push hospitals to rely on compounding pharmacies such as the NECC.
“Increased hospital reliance on compounded drugs should be a result of increased need not unfair pricing. The investigation we are requesting will shed light on any possible linkages between drug shortages and reliance on compounding pharmacies and help address gaps in our oversight of this industry," Markey said in a statement.
Don't cut here: For-profit hospitals have joined the chorus of healthcare interests urging lawmakers to protect their payments in a final deficit deal. In a letter, the Federation of American Hospitals (FAH) warned that its members cannot absorb cuts from sequestration, the expiring Medicare doc fix or any major deficit-reduction deal.
"Hospitals need your help and we ask for your support during the coming days and week as Congress considers policies addressing the fiscal cliff," wrote FAH President Chip Kahn. Healthwatch has more on Kahn's letter and a similar appeal by AARP on Medicare.
The Alliance for Health Reform will hold a briefing on healthcare and the fiscal cliff.
State by state
Utah lawmaker pitches health privacy bill
Eleven percent of California children are uninsured, study says
Health advocates want to increase Maryland's cigarette tax
Ohio House committee approves bill to defund Planned Parenthood
Big rise in Americans with diabetes, especially in South
Doctors, others demand clearer Irish abortion law
Co-owner of pharmacy blamed for outbreak stays silent at hearing
On Medicaid expansion, a high-stakes game of chicken
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