Energy and Commerce panel unveils priorities for 2011

Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee will use their chairmanship of the powerful panel to "develop better solutions" to Democrats' healthcare reform law and review how the Medicare and Medicaid programs operate, according to a summary of its priorities obtained by The Hill.

The document lists five healthcare priorities: Repeal and Replace ObamaCare; Medicaid; Medicare; Oversight of the Food and Drug Administration and Regulatory Competitiveness; and the Department of Health and Human Services' Discretionary Budget.

Many of the proposals are expected. Republicans say they want to recapture the healthcare reform law's cuts to Medicare to revamp the program, while working with states to offer them more flexibility in operating their Medicaid programs.

The report adds that HHS gets $80 billion a year in discretionary funding, including for agencies that "frequently have overlapping functions and duplicative programs."

More surprisingly, the document foreshadows what's likely to become a major political issue over the next year and a half: the drug and medical device user fees that fund federal regulators. 

"On Oct. 1, 2012 laws related to prescription drug user fees, medical device user fees, and pediatric testing of drugs expire and will provide the Committee the vehicle to reestablish the United States as the leader in medical innovation and keep the jobs that comes with that designation," the document states.