OVERNIGHT HEALTH: Medicare means-testing back in play

Mess-GR: Medical specialties are mad about Medicare's payment formula — about the supercommittee's failure to fix it and the various proposals on the table to do so now. The Alliance of Specialty Medicine said in letters to Congress on Wednesday that a patch to the sustainable growth rate formula shouldn't be offset with cuts to providers, which it probably will be. The group also said the next SGR fix shouldn't try to shift Medicare away from the fee-for-service system, an idea that has bipartisan support.

"Congress created this unsustainable Sustainable Growth Rate," the Alliance said. "Therefore, it is patently unfair to place the $300 billion price tag to fix the SGR at the feet of our nation's already-burdened patients and physicians."

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Separately, the Congressional Budget Office released its latest menu of estimates for the SGR earlier this week. The document, which gives the cost for various short-term fixes, is here.

CLASS saga: The House took yet another step in repealing the health law's long-term-care CLASS Act with a 33-17 vote by the Energy and Commerce Committee. Healthwatch's Julian Pecquet has more here.

Delayed rules: The Obama administration decided Wednesday to give doctors more time to comply with regulations requiring them to adopt electronic health records. Healthwatch's Sam Baker has the story.

The hospital lobby praised the delay until 2014, but the Health IT Now! Coalition blasted it.

"It is ironic the Administration announced the delay in more robust standards under the ‘We Can't Wait’ initiative," coalition executive director Joel White said in a statement. "Patients and consumers can't wait for higher standards that can lead to better outcomes, higher quality care, improved safety and lower costs. Taxpayers shouldn't wait for improved standards that foster clinical information sharing between doctors to better coordinate care and lower costs in Medicare and Medicaid."

No surprise here: For the seventh straight year, most top-quality healthcare plans are nonprofit, according to the rankings by the nonprofit National Committee for Quality Assurance. Read the Healthwatch post.


Thursday's agenda

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee holds a hearing on the healthcare law and the Catholic church.

A Senate Homeland Security panel holds a hearing on the "financial and societal costs of medicating America's foster children."


State by state

Consumer advocates say Ohio is moving too slow on an insurance exchange.

State legislators are discussing their options for exchanges at a meeting this week in Florida.

Hospitals in Arizona are suing to block Medicaid cuts in the state.


Reg watch

Republicans are slamming proposed Department of Labor child labor regulations they say would restrict children from working on family farms. The comment period ends Thursday. 

"This regulation, as currently drafted, would have far reaching effects on youth agricultural education programs, farms, ranches and other agricultural businesses, and could greatly impact the structure of family farms and rural communities in the states we represent," Kansas Sen. Pat RobertsPat RobertsTrump's new agriculture brain trust includes Rick Perry, Jim Gilmore Newer waters, same river: The Louisiana floods, and a state in turmoil Meet the rising GOP star who already enrages the left MORE, the top Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee, told The Hill in a statement. "If this moves forward it would have vast implications for the agriculture industry.”


Reading list

The Huffington Post reports that Mitt Romney said in 2006 that letting people go uninsured was "not American." Conservatives will not like this!

But wait! Newt Gingrich, the current anti-Romney candidate, has also supported many policies that closely resemble parts of Obama's healthcare law. ThinkProgress has the comparison.

And Health Affairs takes a look back at Don Berwick's tenure as CMS administrator.


What you might have missed on Healthwatch 

Support for healthcare reform law sees slight rebound

Dem senator critical of administration's no-bid contract for smallpox vaccine


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