OVERNIGHT HEALTH: House GOP backs new healthcare cuts

Cutting Medicaid eligibility, along with other, smaller policies in the reconciliation bill, would undermine recent gains in children’s access to care, according to a report released Thursday by the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute. The report is available here.

Abortion-rights leader stepping down: Nancy Keenan will step down in January as the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, a leading abortion-rights group. Keenan, who has been in the job since 2004, told The Washington Post she’s concerned that abortion isn’t a high priority for young voters. Groups like NARAL need new, younger leaders, she said.

ADVERTISEMENT
“There is an intensity gap between our side, being pro-choice, and the other side,” Keenan said.

The Post’s interview with Keenan is here.

Senators, ex-CMS chiefs mull 'doc fix': Four former Medicare administrators will submit short- and long-term ideas to the Senate Finance Committee on how to resolve issues with the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR). The assignment, given by Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), followed a roundtable Thursday in which the panel discussed a range of issues complicating a permanent "doc fix." The current agreement on physician reimbursements under Medicare will expire on Jan. 1, sticking doctors who treat beneficiaries with a 30 percent pay cut unless Congress acts.
 
One former Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) chief, Gail Wilensky, commented that no replacement proposals are "ready for 'prime time.' " She added that repealing the SGR and leaving in place the resource-based relative value scale, or a version of it, would be no solution.

On Wednesday, Reps. Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.) and Joe Heck (R-Nev.) introduced legislation to repeal the current SGR and replace it with a new system that would include a small boost in payment rates to doctors for four years and a menu of new payment models. The bill was not discussed during the roundtable, and Baucus said in a gaggle that he was not familiar with it.

The submissions from the four former officials — Wilensky, Bruce Vladeck, Thomas Scully and Dr. Mark McClellan — are due within a month, Baucus said.

User fees advance: The House Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously passed a major Food and Drug Administration bill on Thursday, clearing the way for a vote on the House floor soon. The bill would reauthorize user fees the FDA collects from drug and medical device companies and allow the agency to begin collecting a handful of new fees, as well. Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) highlighted the bill’s bipartisan support.

“As we put this package together, I wanted to ensure that it fostered American innovation, which is essential in getting new treatments to patients and creating American jobs,” Upton said in a statement. “Because of the hard work of the committee members on both side of the aisle, I think we have done that.”

The Senate version of the FDA bill is also ready for a floor vote.


State by state

The ban on school bake sales in Massachusetts might not happen after all, the Boston Herald reports.

Denver's medical pot lobby is pushing the city council to ban outdoor advertising for dispensaries in order to "clean up" the industry's image. The Denver Post has the story.

The Illinois House voted to eliminate a health insurance perk for retired state employees, Illinois Statehouse News reports.

California's healthcare spending is going up but at a slower rate since 2003, a report found. California Healthline has more.

And in case you missed it, a judge in Montana declared unconstitutional a ban on prescription birth control for low-income teens enrolled in a state health plan, the Helena Independent Record reports.

Lobbying registrations

Strategic Health Care / Centering Healthcare Institute

Bill tracker

Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) introduced a bill, H.R. 5690, to "make grants to eligible entities to train elementary and secondary school nurses on how to respond to a biological or chemical attack or an outbreak of pandemic influenza in a school building or on school grounds."

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) introduced a resolution designating May 15, 2012, as "National MPS Awareness Day."

Reading list

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) vetoed a bill to set up an insurance exchange in his state, The Washington Post reports.

Retired couples will spend roughly $240,000 on healthcare, according to new figures reported in USA Today.

Kaiser Health News highlights a study that says privately insured children get better care in emergency rooms than children covered by Medicaid.


What you might have missed on Healthwatch

Federal investigators urge stronger oversight of Medicare Part D

Restaurant group: 'Let Obama eat his hot dog'

HHS: New cuts in red tape to save providers billions


Comments / complaints / suggestions? Please let us know:

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

Elise Viebeck: eviebeck@thehill.com / 202-628-8523

Follow us on Twitter @hillhealthwatch