Health policy round-up

Medicaid panic

Lawmakers can expect to continue to get an earful on Friday and throughout the weekend from state leaders and hospital officials worried about looming Medicaid cuts.

After Congress this week failed to take any action on extending enhanced federal Medicaid payments to states past December 2010 — the now infamous FMAP — chances are dimming fast that lawmakers will act before the August recess.

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D), who has been leading the charge, acknowledged as much on Bloomberg TV Thursday afternoon. Rendell said he sees "less than a 50-50" chance of Congress passing FMAP, and said failing to do so would be a "disaster" costing tens of thousands in lost government jobs in education and elsewhere.

Battle over abortion

The Obama administration can likewise expect continued fallout from its unexpected announcement Wednesday of abortion restrictions in the high-risk pools created by the healthcare reform bill. Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, who blasted the decision on Thursday, tells The Hill that the announcement took the administration's allies in the abortion-rights movement by complete surprise. 

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), who was recognized by Planned Parenthood as a "Champion for Women's Health" along with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) Thursday evening, also expressed surprise.

"I'm concerned about what I was hearing," Stabenow told The Hill after getting her award. "It's a concern to me given the fact that these are insurance pools run by insurance companies, not the federal or state government, and it seems to me the same kinds of structure should be involved as the health insurance exchanges."

Under the healthcare reform law, private plans on the state insurance exchanges can offer unsubsidized abortion coverage unless states opt out; five states have already done so.

BP on the hot seat

The National Alliance on Mental Illness is blasting BP for failing to respond to a request for $10 million to fund mental health care in communities affected by the Gulf oil spill.

In a letter to Doug Suttles, chief operating officer of BP exploration and production, NAMI writes that BP has a "legal and moral obligation to help finance mental health services" in the Gulf. The letter comes after two similar requests from the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals went unanswered.

"Ours is a public health concern," NAMI Executive Director Michael Fitzpatrick writes in the letter. "The psychological impact of the oil spill on the lives of people is widely documented. Rates of depression, suicides and suicide attempts, family violence, alcoholism and substance abuse and other serious mental health problems are sharply on the rise in affected communities. These problems are so severe that mental health issues were identified as the priority health concern from the disaster at a recent meeting of the Institute of Medicine in New Orleans."

More regs!

Health policy analysts say the agency that oversees Medicare is expected to unveil a slew of new regulations — perhaps as many as six — in the afternoon.

In play: bundled payments and quality incentives for end-stage renal disease (ESRD) and FY 2011 Medicare Inpatient Rehabilitation Facility Prospective Payment System notice; FY 2011 hospice notice; FY 2011 skilled nursing facility notice; and FY 2011 home health proposed rule. The ESRD quality incentives, hospice notice and Inpatient Rehabilitation Facility notice are the most likely candidates, having already been approved by the Office of Management and Budget.