OVERNIGHT HEALTH: Obama takes the lead on drug shortages

Rate review challenged: State insurance commissioners warned Monday that a health insurance company's lawsuit in Maine could undermine state regulators across the country, Kaiser Health News reports. Anthem Health Plans of Maine argues that regulators deprived the company of "a fair and reasonable return" by reducing requested premium increases.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners argued in a brief that a ruling in favor of Anthem "has the potential to destabilize a key aspect of insurance regulation and will have far reaching effects impacting all states." Oral arguments are scheduled for Nov. 10. 

ADVERTISEMENT
Exchanges comments: Retailers are pleased with many parts of the Department of Health and Human Services's and the Treasury Department's proposed rules on insurance exchanges. The Retail Industry Leaders Association had asked for a "safe harbor" for companies that employ a lot of seasonal or part-time workers, and RILA said in its comments on the exchanges rules that Treasury got some important parts of the "safe harbor" right. Nevertheless, many member companies say they might not be able to offer coverage, and RILA urged HHS to consider various employer-related provisions as a whole while it moves forward on exchanges. The comments can be found here.

ERRP controversy: Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) criticized the way HHS has handled the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program — specifically, the fact that few large entities, mostly state and local governments, have taken up the bulk of the program's $5 billion allowance. But the Government Accountability Office says that's consistent with overall coverage for early retirees, and that HHS awarded the funds on a first-come, first-served basis. Healthwatch has the details.

CLASS (really, truly) dismissed: The Congressional Budget Office confirmed Monday that formally repealing the dormant CLASS program in the healthcare reform law would not affect the deficit. Sam Baker has more.


Tuesday's agenda

The Senate is expected to pass its $20 billion 2012 spending bill for agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration. The so-called minibus bill, which also contains funding for the Commerce, Justice, Transportation and Housing and Urban Development departments, then heads to a House-Senate conference where it will likely get pared down some more.

The deficit-cutting supercommittee hears from four insiders with pretty strong views about how to cut the deficit. The chairmen of Obama's debt commission, former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) and former Clinton Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles, have proposed tax hikes opposed by Republicans and entitlement cuts opposed by Democrats. Also visiting: Former Office of Management and Budget Director Alice Rivlin and former Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), who have their own $6 trillion deficit-cutting proposal.

The American Public Health Association hosts the fourth day of its annual meeting and exposition. Disparities, the CLASS Act and much more are on the agenda.


Regulatory watch

Tracking disparities: HHS on Monday finalized new standards to track broad factors that affect people's health, as required by the healthcare reform law. The agency devised the new standards to provide more detailed information than what it had collected previously about differences in health status and access to healthcare that stem from social, cultural and environmental issues. Healthwatch's Sam Baker has more.

Medicare cut payments to home health agencies by 2.31 percent, or $430 million, for 2012.


State by state

Tennessee's Medicaid program is no longer paying doctors and hospitals for medical errors.

Wisconsin won't be getting a $45 million federal windfall it was counting on to make up for budget shortfall in its Medicaid program. The state wants HHS to reimburse past medical costs that Wisconsin and other states believe they improperly had to pay because of federal mistakes involving disability programs, but HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sent the state a letter saying she didn't have the authority to make the payments.

Pennsylvania is cutting medical assistance to thousands of people as it tackles its paperwork backlog.


Bill tracker

Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) introduced legislation to reauthorize for five years a program that helps fund the delivery of planned and emergency respite services and training and recruit respite workers and caregivers. The bill authorizes $50 billion over five years (H.R. 3266).

Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas) introduced a bill restricting Medicare's ability to cut reimbursements for diagnostic imaging tests (H.R. 3269).

Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas) dropped a bill clarifying that caregivers for veterans with serious illnesses are eligible for assistance and support services provided by the secretary of Veterans Affairs (H.R. 3279).


Fraud fight

A Houston doctor was sentenced to more than 11 years in prison for a $45 million healthcare fraud conspiracy that lasted two-and-a-half years.

A Texas chiropractor pleaded guilty to filing fraudulent physical therapy and chiropractic claims.

Two Alabama nurses were arrested for stealing controlled substances from a nursing home.


Lobbying registrations

Strategic Health Care / The Alliance for BioTherapeutics

Kevin McGuiness / International AIDS Vaccine Initiative 


Reading list

For all the warnings about tainted treats, there's never been a single documented case of kids poisoned by strangers on Halloween, The Incidental Economist helpfully points out. The real threat: cars.

Employer health plans are coming down hard on workers who aren't doing enough to improve their health, Reuters reports.


What you might have missed on Healthwatch

Week ahead: Medicare faces chopping block in supercommittee proposals

Supreme Court to decide if suits can be filed over Medicaid cuts

Health law's poor polling: GOP controls debate, Dems question 2012 impact


Comments / complaints / suggestions? Please let us know:

Julian Pecquet: jpecquet@thehill.com / 202-628-8527

Sam Baker: sbaker@thehill.com / 202-628-8351


Follow us on Twitter @hillhealthwatch