Health highlights Friday

The frustration was echoed by the doctors’ lobby, which has urged Congress to pass a permanent fix to the physician pay problem that’s become a perennial thorn in the side of doctors and lawmakers alike. 

There was another, less mentioned, reason that House Democrats were up in arms: To help cover the $6.4 billion cost of the six-month doc fix, Senate leaders tweaked a pension law to allow corporations to postpone contributions to their pension funds — a move hugely unpopular among labor unions. Indeed, the lone vote of dissent came from Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House labor panel, who was protesting the pension provision.  

Thursday’s House vote, which came nearly a week after CMS began processing claims that included the 21-percent cut, means the agency will have to go back and send a second round of checks updating the June claims they’ve already paid. It’s not yet clear how long that process will take. 

Neither chamber is in session Friday, but not everyone has left for the weekend. Democratic Reps. Barbara Lee (Calif.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.), Maxine Waters (Calif.), Donna Christensen (V.I.) and Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas) will hold a press conference at the Capitol this morning on HIV/AIDS testing. The lawmakers are all members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Also in Washington, Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.) and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) will join a forum discussing long-term care. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) will tackle issues related to retirement security at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Center for American Progress hosts a forum on health insurance oversight. And the Food and Drug Administration is holding an all-day examination of ways to reduce medication errors. 

Outside the beltway, former Sen. Rick Santorum heads to Iowa today to test the waters for a presidential run in 2012. The Pennsylvania Republican has been a prominent critic of both the Democrats’ health reform law and the closed-door deals that secured its passage. “We have animal farm here.”