Healthcare Friday

Conservative group claims 1 million signatures on repeal petition: A conservative group critical of the Democrats' healthcare reform law has collected 1 million signatures calling for the law's repeal, the group announced Thursday. Revere America, a Washington-based conservative group named after the Revolution-era hero, has posted its petition online, calling for "the repeal and replacement of this law with responsible reforms."

George Pataki, former GOP governor of New York and chairman of the repeal group, told reporters over the summer that he supports a more market-based system, including reforms allowing insurers to sell plans across state lines and limiting malpractice claims.

"The American people have made their concern known over this law, and they will deliver a clear message on Nov. 2," Pataki said in a statement announcing the million-signature mark. "Americans feel like they have been handed an unworkable system they neither trust nor understand."

At the same time, Pataki is having trouble getting candidates for office to sign on. Only 55 have done so to date.

Hospital group backs repeal of cost-cutting board: The American Hospital Association this week officially endorsed a Republican bill to repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board created by the healthcare reform law. The IPAB is one of the few cost-cutting measures in the bill; it drew hackles during the debate when Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) exempted hospitals from its mandate until 2020. 

"America's hospitals support the repeal of IPAB because its existence permanently removes Congress from the decision-making process and threatens the long-time, open and important dialogue between hospitals and their elected officials about the needs of local hospitals and how to provide the highest quality care to their patients and communities," the AHA wrote in a letter to Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who introduced the repeal bill.

Sestak says Dems caved in on healthcare: Rep. Joe Sestak, the Pennsylvania Democratic Senate candidate, said this week that Democrats bent too far in order to pass the healthcare reform bill. Agreements cut with individual lawmakers and various health industry groups represented a compromise of principles that ultimately made voters suspicious of the bill, Sestak said Wednesday, without offering specifics. And launching the trouble, he said, was the party shift of Sen. Arlen Specter (D), who was defeated by Sestak in the Democratic primary earlier this year.

Medical device makers blast Puerto Rico tax: The trade association for medical device makers criticized a new 4 percent tax on certain transactions in Puerto Rico. In a letter sent this week to Gov. Luis Fortuño, Stephen Ubl of the Advanced Medical Technology Association warns that "this tax sends a very bad message to our members and will significantly impact device manufacturers’ ability to maintain and grow their manufacturing facilities on the island." AdvaMed members are major employers in Puerto Rico, Ubl writes, providing more than 15,000 jobs, or roughly 13 percent of the island’s manufacturing jobs.

HHS highlights growing early retiree program: Almost 700 additional employers and unions will soon get help providing health coverage to early retirees and their families, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said Thursday. In all, nearly 3,600 employers and unions have so far been approved to participate in the healthcare reform law's Early Retiree Reinsurance Program to date, and applications are still being accepted.

Rep. Braley joins in criticism of competitive bidding: Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) has joined in the criticism of the competitive bidding program for durable medical equipment in Medicare. In a letter sent Thursday to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Donald Berwick, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Braley requests another delay to the program.

NPR gets flak for "psychiatrist" remark: The National Alliance on Mental Illness has warned National Public Radio that a remark made by NPR's CEO in the firing of senior correspondent Juan Williams may violate the letter or spirit of the Americans with Disabilities Act. NAMI called "outrageous" NPR President and CEO Vivian Schiller's remark that Williams should have kept his personal feelings about Muslims between himself and his "psychiatrist or publicist — take your pick." In a letter to Schiller, NAMI Executive Director Michael Fitzpatrick calls on NPR to adopt a plan no later than its board meeting scheduled in November to "educate and reassure" managers and employees about ADA protections in the workplace for people with mental-health concerns.

Titus campaign hits GOP opponent on cervical cancer vote: The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is gunning for the woman vote in Nevada. After releasing a television ad last week attacking Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle and aimed at female voters, SEIU is finishing up a direct-mail campaign in support of Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.). Some of the mail pieces criticize Titus's GOP opponent, Joe Heck, for his vote in the Nevada state senate against requiring insurance companies to cover a vaccine for the human papillomavirus, a precursor to cervical cancer. 

Pawlenty raises questions: Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) says he'll file Freedom of Information Act requests with federal agencies to obtain information about Democrats' work to promote healthcare reform. Pawlenty hit the Democratic National Committee with his own FOIA request after ABC News reported on Wednesday that the DNC had filed similar requests with the Pentagon for information on a series of potential Republican presidential candidates in 2012, including the Minnesota governor.