Health Policy Thursday


HEALTH REFORM FIGHTS

Equally toxic, the fight over healthcare reform continues to rage.

On the abortion front, the Obama administration has yet to respond to Senate Republicans' request that the Department of Health and Human Services issue regulations restricting abortion coverage in the state high-risk pools created by the healthcare reform bill. The request comes after a Congressional Research Service report found that none of the actions taken to date by the administration can legally bar states from covering elective abortions; Republicans want HHS to act by Friday.

As for healthcare premiums, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) is the latest lawmaker to add his voice to the clamor for insurance companies to refrain from raising rates after posting high profits. His statement comes as Aetna and UnitedHealth Group reported profit increases of 42 percent and 31 percent, respectively, from the same quarter last year. State insurance commissioners last week cautioned against making decisions regarding rates based on annual profits; the commissioners said they look at insurers' financial situation over several years to judge their long-term solvency.

Healthcare reform's price tag also continues to spark controversy. The Health Care Blog has a good summary of the widely divergent predictions on the costs and savings of the new law, of which there are "enough to cover a dartboard."

ONE MORE FIGHT

The Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection holds a hearing on the Toxic Chemicals Safety Act of 2010. Introduced last week by Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) and Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the bill would update the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act — the primary statute governing the safety of chemicals in commerce.

The bill calls for all chemicals to be reviewed for safety; restricts or eliminates dangerous chemicals; and calls for the development of new, safer chemicals to be developed more rapidly "to move our economy toward a sustainable future," in Waxman's words.

CALENDAR

The Senate Appropriations Committee marks up the FY 2011 budget for Labor, Health and Human Services and Education.

The House is expected to vote on a bill guaranteeing healthcare for first responders to the site of the 9/11 attacks in New York City. A vote is expected around mid-day, after being postponed Wednesday

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), chairman of the Senate HELP panel's Subcommittee on Children and Families, holds the third in a series of hearings on the "The State of the American Child." Today's hearing focuses on "The Impact of Federal Policies on Children” and features senior Obama administration officials from the departments of HHS, Education and Labor, as well as the Council of Economic Advisers.

Also, the Senate Finance Committee assesses presidential nominees for the Medicare and Social Security board of trustees: Charles Blahous, former economic adviser to President George W. Bush, and Robert Reischauer, president of the Urban Institute.