OVERNIGHT HEALTH: Congress scrambles for 'doc fix'

Plan B: Wednesday is the deadline for the Food and Drug Administration to decide whether it will make Plan B — the controversial emergency contraceptive — available without a prescription to customers of all ages. The FDA has been gradually relaxing restrictions on Plan B since it was first approved in 1999, and the agency drew sharp criticism for imposing age restrictions when it made the drug available over the counter.

But Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) said the FDA will spark a whole new backlash if it makes Plan B available to everyone, regardless of age. Congress could retaliate with budget cuts or legislation to reverse the decision, he said.

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"The FDA is quickly losing their credibility on a lot of different fronts," Franks said Tuesday. The agency "is starting to be politically driven rather than doing the job that they were called on to do."

While you're at it: Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) and his fellow Republican doctors aren't just looking for a two-year doc fix, Gingrey told reporters Tuesday — they also want Congress to delay implementation of the new ICD-10 coding system for the duration of the temporary payment fix. The new system adds thousands of new codes for doctors to use when billing Medicare, and doctors say it's simply too much to handle.

Insurance exchange feels loved: Small businesses in New York state are big fans of insurance exchanges, according to a private insurance exchange in New York state. HealthPass New York released a survey Tuesday that said 84 percent of small businesses described exchanges as a "good idea." And 78 percent said they would consider using an exchange to buy coverage for their employees.

New York's exchange bill died at the end of the legislative session.

Lights, transcript, action: The Supreme Court needs to chill out about television cameras, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said Tuesday. The justices have said they don't want to allow cameras into their chambers because it could prompt grandstanding and publicity-seeking, much like what is seen in the televised White House press briefings and televised House and Senate floor proceedings. Nonsense, says Klobuchar.

"I’m trying to picture Ruth Bader Ginsburg turning into Judge Judy. I just don’t think it’s going to happen,” Klobuchar said.

Healthwatch has more on how the upcoming healthcare arguments have revived the debate over cameras in the courtroom.

Blame game: Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) is still unhappy that former Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Don Berwick never got a confirmation hearing in the Senate Finance Committee. Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) decided not to hold a hearing once it was clear Berwick wouldn't be confirmed, but Harkin says it's a fight Baucus should have picked. Read the Healthwatch story on the disagreement that's still lingering even after Berwick is gone.

Wednesday's agenda

The Senate Finance Committee holds a hearing on drug shortages.

The American Health Care Association releases a new analysis showing that nursing homes can't afford more cuts in their Medicare payments.

Researchers from the Georgetown Health Policy Institute will release two new issue briefs on Florida's Medicaid program.


State by state

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's healthcare reforms haven't saved as much money as expected.

In Delaware, the cost of the Children's Health Insurance Program is adding up.


Reading list

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum said Monday night that people don't die because they lack health insurance, but rather because they make bad decisions. ABC News has the story.

The Washington Post takes a closer look at the decision the FDA faces on Plan B.

Senators are asking for an investigation of possible gaps in the military's mental-health services, the AP reports.


What you might have missed on Healthwatch 

Gingrich would implement Ryan plan

Congress urged to leave health law's medical loss ratio alone

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