By Healthwatch staff - 02/22/11 10:30 PM EST
SCOTUS backs vaccine makers:Vaccine makers cannot be sued over side effects from childhood vaccines, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday. The 6-2 opinion cited a 1986 federal law's creation of a no-fault arbitration process to compensate individuals injured by certain vaccines. Read The Hill story.
HHS issues first HIPAA fine: A Maryland health insurer was hit with HHS's first-ever fine for violating the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 privacy rule. According to HHS, Cignet Health denied patients' requests for access to their health records, and the insurer failed to cooperate with the HHS investigation. Read The Hill story.
Hospitals fight for limited scope of emergency care law: The trade group representing investor-owned hospitals is urging federal regulators not to expand the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) to cover inpatients. The 1986 law was passed to ensure that people with emergency medical conditions aren't denied emergency services, but the Federation of American Hospitals says expanding its scope would hurt hospitals.
"Applying EMTALA to inpatients would likely have many unintended consequences," the FAH writes in its response, due Tuesday, to an advance notice of proposed rulemaking. "Unquestionably, the new policy would significantly burden strained hospital resources by adding even more documentation and staffing requirements in a challenging operating environment. In addition ... extending EMTALA to inpatients (could) provide an incentive for hospitals to transfer patients instead of treating them - a result that runs directly counter to the goal of the statute."
1099 scores are in: The Congressional Budget Office on Tuesday scored two House GOP efforts to repeal the reform law's 1099 reporting requirement. H.R. 4, which would repeal the provision without offsetting the cost, would increase the deficit by $21.9 billion through 2021. H.R. 705, which includes offsets, would reduce the deficit by $166 million over the same time period. The bill passed the House Ways and Means Committee last week by party-line vote.
Predicting Alzheimer's: wrote The consumer advocacy group Public Citizento the FDA this week urging the agency to reject a drug that aims to predict whether someone will get Alzheimer's.
Healthcare reform meets Facebook: HHS launched a new Facebook page about how most kids can stay on their parents' insurance until age 26.
States respond to clarification request: The National Federation of Independent Business and 26 states that successfully challenged the healthcare reform law must respond by Wednesday to the Obama administration's request for a federal judge to clarify his ruling that struck down the entire healthcare overhaul. The Obama administration contends that states must continue to implement the law, but some states are saying the judge's ruling is enough to stop it. Read The Hill story.
MedPAC meets: The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission kicks off a two-day meeting at the Ronald Reagan Building in the International Trade Center. On the agenda for Wednesday: The "doc fix," reforming fee-for-service, federally qualified health centers, and rural beneficiary access to care.
The helpful folks at MedPAC have prepared handy briefs ahead of the meeting:
Rural Medicare: The healthcare reform law tasks MedPAC with evaluating access to care, quality of care and the adequacy of Medicare payments in rural areas. This meeting focuses on rural access.
Federally Qualified Health Centers: The centers provide care for low-income people in areas that lack primary care. Although a small portion — about 7 percent — of the centers' users are on Medicare, the centers hold lessons for primary care-centered care.
The meeting comes as House Republicans propose cutting federal funding for the centers by more than $1 billion in their stopgap budget bill for the rest of the year.
Medicare benefit design: MedPAC commissioners will compare the program's benefit structure and available supplemental coverage to trends in the private market.
Doc fix: MedPAC examines policy issues surrounding the physician payment schedule as Congress continues to debate changing the much-maligned Sustainable Growth Rate.
Ancillary services: MedPAC continues to examine ways to reduce ancillary services, such as imaging, that physicians offer to boost their profits. Proposals include legal restrictions, financial incentives and prior approval.
Secretary talks healthcare info: HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will speak to the annual Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society conference in Orlando.
Rural health: The National Advisory Committee on Rural Health will discuss the role of rural health in the reform law at the Omni Shoreham.
More and more states are pushing their elderly and disabled Medicaid patients into managed long-term care to save money, reports Kaiser Health News.
The Infectious Diseases Society of America continues its push for Congress to address antibiotic resistance and boost antibiotic research in a new Journal of the American Medical Association article.
A new California Watch investigation finds that a hospital chain is over-reporting malnutrition cases to get bonus Medicare dollars.
The Associated Press tries to answer the question of how many bureaucrats are needed to implement healthcare reform.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) is seeking $300 million in Medicaid cuts by shifting beneficiaries into managed-care programs, The New York Times reports.
Rep. David Wu (D-Ore.) is seeking treatment for mental health, The Hill's Washington Scene writes.
WBUR looks at accountable care organizations.
What you might have missed on Healthwatch:
The Obama administration is gearing up for an influx of state requests to modify Medicaid as governors descend on Washington this weekend.
Senate Democrats are pushing back against a House GOP effort to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood in the continuing resolution.
Freshman Rep. Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.) last week was the lone Republican to oppose a continuing resolution amendment cutting off salaries to government workers charged with implementing the reform law.