This week: AARP faces grilling over reform support

Lawmakers have less than two weeks to come up with the next spending bill to keep the government running past April 8. Lawmakers, growing increasingly upset with short-term stopgap measures, face tough negotiations over healthcare riders House Republicans attached to their long-term budget last month. 

Senate Democrats say the riders, which block federal funds for Planned Parenthood and healthcare reform implementation, are nonstarters. 

On Wednesday, the Senate Appropriations health subcommittee will hold a hearing on the administration’s 2012 Health and Human Services budget, with Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testifying. The equivalent subpanel in the House will host Sebelius on Friday. 

Also Wednesday, Ways and Means Committee Republicans will hold a hearing on government policies and actions that they say are impeding job creation. Healthcare reform — a “job-crusher” by Republicans’ rhetoric — will likely be a hot topic.

The Energy and Commerce oversight subcommittee on Friday will look into the low participation in the high-risk insurance pools created by the reform law. Only 12,000 people, out of millions who are eligible, have signed up during the first six months of the program.  

The administration says the low enrollment is typical for a new federal health program. The oversight subcommittee earlier this year asked HHS for more details about how the department is spending the money for the high-risk pools. 

Off the Hill, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners may decide during their weekend spring meeting — which runs through Tuesday — whether agents and brokers should be excluded from medical loss ratio calculations. The insurance sales representatives fear new federal rules limiting administrative spending will put them out of business.

Sebelius might make news when she is interviewed at the Newseum on Thursday morning. America’s Health Insurance Plans chief Karen Ignagni and AdvaMed CEO Stephen Ubl also will participate in a panel discussion.