OVERNIGHT HEALTH: House panels take another whack at Obama healthcare law

The Ways and Means Committee has found a simple way to meet its deficit-reduction target under the House Budget: the healthcare reform law's insurance subsidies. 

Instructed to save $53 billion over the next decade, the panel on Wednesday will mark up a proposal to save $43.9 billion by requiring people to pay back any excess insurance subsidies they receive under President Obama's healthcare reform law. 

ADVERTISEMENT
Smaller "recapture" efforts have garnered bipartisan support in the past when they were used to pay for a "doc fix" delaying scheduled cuts to Medicare physician payments and eliminate the law's 1099 tax reporting requirement. This one goes further, however, and would require people to repay the entire amount of overpayments.

Healthwatch's Julian Pecquet has the story.Other House panels are also looking at health savings.

The Judiciary Committee on Tuesday marked up medical malpractice legislation capping non-economic damages at $250,000, which would save the federal government $41 billion — more than enough to meet the panel's $39 billion savings target.

ADVERTISEMENT
The Energy and Commerce Committee, for its part, has to find $96.76 billion under Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) budget instructions. The panel has yet to formally announce any savings proposals but is expected to focus on medical liability reform — the committee shares jurisdiction with Judiciary — and continue to chip away at the healthcare law's Prevention and Public Health Fund. A markup is expected next week.

No Senate budget: Yet another potential vote to repeal healthcare reform was scuttled Tuesday as Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) announced that the panel won't mark up a budget until after the election.

Conrad began the markup Tuesday but said it will not resume until after the November elections. Republicans said they were taken aback by the decision and had showed up Tuesday prepared to offer amendments that would have repealed the healthcare law. The Hill has the story.

About those negotiations: Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are still trying to dig up more information about the political negotiations that helped President Obama pass healthcare reform. The committee said in a memo Tuesday that it’s still seeking records from the talks between administration officials and various healthcare industries.

So far, the committee isn’t disclosing any details that are not already widely known.

“Our investigation has uncovered that the vast majority of the negotiations over the substance of the PPACA took place behind closed doors, and that the public events attended by the President and others were merely political theater,” the GOP memo states. “In truth, behind the scenes the White House was carefully managing the responses of various stakeholders, agreeing to certain policy positions in exchange for commitments of public support or advertising.”

SCOTUS unanimous in healthcare case: Not the healthcare case, obviously. The high court ruled Tuesday in a lawsuit involving the complex business practices of brand-name and generic drugs — specifically, how a generic can sell drugs for uses that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration but aren’t covered by the brand-name product’s patent. The justices said in a 9-0 decision that generics can use the federal law known as Hatch-Waxman to correct incomplete patent information.

SCOTUSBlog has links to the decision and the briefs, as well as recaps of oral arguments in the case.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) praised the decision.

“While the issues in the case may seem arcane, the fact of the matter is that allowing brand companies to exaggerate the breadth of their patent protections in their listings with FDA served as a real block to generics,” he said in a statement. “This decision is in the interest of American consumers who should have the benefit of competition and lower prices.”
 
Jobs, jobs, jobs: Republicans criticized the Obama administration on Tuesday for hiring thousands of new employees at the Health and Human Services Department. The Joint Economic Committee, citing the federal government’s official employment records, said the HHS workforce has ballooned by some 11 percent under President Obama, attributing that increase to the healthcare reform law.

The increases, though, aren’t solely a result of “ObamaCare.” The HHS workforce has grown 6 percent since Obama signed the law, and hiring has been pretty steady from year to year since the last few years of the Bush administration. Healthwatch has the details.



Wednesday’s agenda

The Energy and Commerce Health subcommittee holds a hearing on "FDA User Fees 2012: How Innovation Helps Patients and Jobs." Current user fees for prescription drugs and medical devices expire on Sept. 30. A draft of the reauthorization bill is here.

The House Small Business Committee holds a hearing on taxes on the horizon.

And the Senate Special Committee on Aging holds a hearing on "The future of long-term care: Saving money by serving seniors."


State by state

Republicans at the Colorado GOP convention voted overwhelmingly to seek repeal of the Colorado Health Benefits Exchange despite support from Republican leaders in the legislature.

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed a bill that could shut down the only abortion clinic in the state.


Lobbying registrations

Evergreen Associates / Iverson Genetic Diagnostics (grant application support for drug effectiveness diagnostics)

Polsinelli Shughart PC / The Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (tax issues related to the deductibility of advertising costs)

Peck, Madigan, Jones & Stewart / HealthPartners (Medicaid reimbursement)

Guide Consulting Services / Eating Disorders Coalition

Ervin | Hill Strategy / National Rehabilitation Hospital (defense appropriations)

M. T. Philllips Associates / Active Policy Solutions on behalf of Active Network (funding for Physical Education Program)


Reading list

Some states will move ahead with healthcare reform even if the Supreme Court strikes the law down, Reuters reports.

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) tells Talking Points Memo that Republicans are distorting his remarks about whether healthcare reform was a political mistake.

Kaiser Health News discusses Medicare's effort to change the way it pays doctors.


What you might have missed on Healthwatch

Study: US drug spending growth sees record slowdown

GOP: Obama health law will raise taxes $4 trillion over 25 years 


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