OVERNIGHT HEALTH: How many Americans are uninsured?

Brokers get a win: After years of campaigning at almost every level, insurance agents took another step forward Tuesday in their push for a carve-out from the medical loss ratio (MLR). Brokers want their commissions excluded from insurers’ MLR calculations, because they say insurers will squeeze commissions to free up more money for profits.

ADVERTISEMENT
The Energy and Commerce Health subcommittee on Tuesday passed Rep. Mike Rogers’s (R-Mich.) bill to carve out brokers and agents from the MLR. The measure has some bipartisan support, but drew criticism from Democratic leaders on the committee, who said it would weaken an important consumer safeguard.

Healthwatch has the story.

More actual work: The same subcommittee also passed a handful of bipartisan healthcare bills. They would:

• Give states grants for studying ways to hire more veterans as EMTs
• Establish new research networks to study rare diseases in children
• Direct the National Institutes of Health to study certain cancers
• Boost enforcement of regulations that govern laboratory tests
• Alter the Medicare Secondary Payer Program to recover payments more quickly

All of the bills passed by voice vote.

House moves the ball on welfare: Two House committees will mark up a bill Thursday meant to block the Obama administration's controversial changes to welfare. Reps. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and John Kline (R-Minn.), chairmen of the House Ways and Means and Education committees, respectively, announced their panels would move forward on the new resolution this week.

"It is unfortunate, but not surprising, that the Obama administration has refused to withdraw their illegal 'guidance' undermining the critical welfare work requirements," Camp said in a statement. "This resolution will restore these requirements that have led to more work, higher earnings, less welfare dependence and fewer impoverished Americans."

The move comes a week after government investigators concluded the House and Senate could vote on the changes, and is the latest in an ongoing battle over the welfare policy, which Republicans charge would "gut" welfare's work requirement. Healthwatch has more on the developments here.

Hatch to force Senate vote: Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) introduced a companion measure Tuesday on the welfare measure and promised to force a floor vote as soon as possible. Government investigators made the move possible by ruling that the administration's new welfare policy is equal to a rule and therefore must be sent to Congress for approval. The Senate vote could have to wait until the lame-duck session, Hatch told reporters Tuesday, though Democrats will not be able to filibuster when it happens. Hatch also called for a vote in a floor speech. Read more about his remarks at The Hill's Floor Action blog.

Weighing Romney's Medicaid plan: Mitt Romney's plan to block-grant Medicaid would reduce the program's funding by $1.26 trillion over nine years, according to a study out Tuesday from Bloomberg Government. The reform would end open-ended funding for Medicaid based on enrollment and tie growth in program spending to inflation plus 1 percent. The overhaul would also give governors more flexibility on how to use the money. Critics said the changes would be devastating for current Medicaid beneficiaries, about 49 percent of whom were children in 2009, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Supporters argue that massive reforms are necessary for fiscal stability in Medicaid. Bloomberg has more on the study here. Romney's running mate also has bold plans for the program — Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) proposals would cut about three-quarters of Medicaid's federal funding by 2050, according to budget auditors. Read more about that estimate at Healthwatch. 


Wednesday’s agenda

The Ways and Means Health subcommittee holds a hearing on exchanges.

America’s Health Insurance Plans starts off its Medicaid conference, featuring several events focused on the impact of the Supreme Court’s Medicaid ruling.

The American Medical Association, American Hospital Association and American Nurses Association release a new report on the impact of sequestration.

The American Association for Cancer Research releases its “cancer progress report.”

State by state

In Massachusetts, religious groups split over assisted suicide.

Missouri insurance bill triggers contraception debate [sub. req'd].

More private schools fall below threshold for immunizations in California.


Reading list

U.S. court says woman can't be charged for inducing abortion.

Opinion: Massachusetts lessons about a President Romney.

Medicare pilot program saves money treating dual-eligibles.

Lower costs may mean more patients stick with meds, research finds.

Doctors still trying to diagnose mysteries of hantavirus.

Pancreatic cancer deaths on the rise, report says.


What you might have missed on Healthwatch

GOP: 80 million hours will be lost to health tax filing requirements.

Sebelius’s former lieutenant now leading fight for nursing home funding.

Poll: Obama widens lead over Romney on healthcare.

King: Congress has 'moral obligation' to increase 9/11 first-responder funds.

Lawmakers to meet NFL commissioner, discuss plans for HGH testing of players.


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