By Sam Baker and Julian Pecquet - 11/17/11 11:50 PM EST
Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney reiterated his
opposition to President Obama’s healthcare reform law while still
refusing to disavow his own, similar effort as Massachusetts
governor. Romney said in an interview with Fox Business Channel that
he’s confident the Supreme Court will strike down the federal law’s
individual mandate and that he still believes his healthcare law was
right for Massachusetts.
Romney didn’t take a position on whether Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan should recuse herself from the healthcare challenge. Check out the Hill’s rundown of Romney’s comments.
Suprecommittee struggle: Democrats have given plenty of ground on healthcare cuts in the supercommittee’s deliberations, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday. She pushed back against supercommittee co-chairman Jeb Hensarling’s (R-Texas) suggestion yesterday that Democrats hadn’t come to the table with significant entitlement reforms.
IRS concerns: President Obama's healthcare law will leave millions of families without affordable coverage unless tax officials rewrite the rules on who gets subsidies, advocates warned Thursday. Healthwatch's Julian Pecquet has more.
(More) unintended consequences: A handful of Senate Democrats warned that the healthcare reform law could be bad news for farmers. Thousands of farmers buy health insurance for themselves and their families through cooperatives, but many low-income farmers might leave their cooperatives to take advantage of subsidies in the new insurance exchanges. Several Senate Democrats want the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to grant a waiver that would let farmers claim their subsidies and remain in their cooperatives. Healthwatch has the details.
Innovation and regulation: Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) admitted that House leaders haven’t paid much attention to his bill on genetic tests, but said it’s an important issue that ought to gain more traction. Burgess’s bill would explicitly state that the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t have the authority to regulate laboratory-developed tests. Burgess spoke Thursday at a policy breakfast sponsored by The Hill — read our coverage of the event for more on his bill and the emerging science of genetic testing.
Exchanges planning: The National Governors Association has selected six states for intensive, customized “retreats” on insurance exchanges. NGA staff will provide technical assistance catered to each state’s unique situation. The lucky six are Alabama, Illinois, Kentucky, Nevada, Utah and Washington.
Pizza wars: The House passed the omnibus spending bill that guts stringent new nutrition standards for school meals. Health advocates and many Democrats were appalled by the joint House-Senate conference's decision to eliminate limits on potato servings and to continue classifying pizzas as vegetables.
Read more on the vote here. The Senate takes up the bill on Friday.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) lambasted the last-minute changes, saying Congress is "allowing the salt, potato growers and frozen food industries to continue feeding the childhood obesity epidemic." He also used it to tout his legislation that would eliminate tax deductions for advertising and marketing of fast food and junk food that targets children.
Saving grace: The bill's support for the Food and Drug Administration got a much better reception from the health sector. The Pew Health Group, for example, praised the bill for increasing FDA funding by $50 million, to $2.5 billion — money that will be directed in part towards implementing the new guidelines and regulations laid out in the Food Safety Modernization Act passed last year.
Set your DVR: The Discovery Channel is airing a one-hour special Saturday on health information technology. The program, produced together with Booz Allen Hamilton, “takes a close-up look at the groundbreaking ways technology is impacting physicians in their everyday delivery of care: from hospitals to out-patient services to private practice.”
The documentary is set to premiere at 8 a.m. Saturday.
EHR milestone: More than 100,000 rural doctors have signed up for a program that will help them adopt electronic medical records, HHS said Thursday. The department said more than one-third of all primary care doctors have committed to work with regional extension centers to adopt the new technology.
Pfizer on the hot seat: Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) says Pfizer is blocking access to generic versions of Lipitor, its blockbuster cholesterol-lowering drug. He wants the Federal Trade Commission to look into a deal Pfizer struck with pharmacy benefit managers, saying the agreement “is a sweet deal for the drug companies at the great expense of consumers, employers and taxpayers.”
MACPAC — Congress’s Medicaid advisory panel — continues its two-day meeting. Friday’s agenda includes a discussion of Medicaid managed care.
State by state
Indiana bets on high-deductible health insurance
Virginia is waiting for a Supreme Court ruling before deciding whether to set up a health exchange
Montana prosecutors want the state Supreme Court to lift a judge's block on a new law banning medical marijuana sales.
The owner of a durable medical equipment company in Louisiana was arrested and indicted for allegedly billing Medicare for orthotic kits (neck, shoulder, elbow, waist, knee and ankle braces) that were never delivered.
A Texas couple was arrested on charges they set up several healthcare businesses in order to commit bankruptcy fraud.
Three Texas defendants were indicted on charges they ran a conspiracy to defraud Medicare by submitting more than in $700,000 in claims for office visits and diagnostic tests that were never performed.
Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Michael Bennet (D-Co.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Reps. Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.) and Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation Thursday to increase penalties for trafficking counterfeit drugs.
Butler Snow Omara Stevens and Cannada / AnazzaoHealth
Dutko Worldwide / Peoria NEXT Innovation Center
Mitt Romney’s initial plan for healthcare reform was significantly different from what ended up being implemented in Massachusetts, Politico reports.
The website for Newt Gingrich’s think tank still has a section endorsing an individual mandate, Talking Points Memo notes.
Kaiser Health News takes a fresh look at the cost and difficulty of caring for patients who receive both Medicare and Medicaid.
At the Incidental Economist, Austin Frakt argues that traditional Medicare might do just fine against competition from private health insurance plans.
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