OVERNIGHT HEALTH: Medicare payments in the spotlight

The House Ways and Means Committee's Health panel will take a fresh look Tuesday at replacing Medicare's payment system for doctors. Lawmakers from both parties are pushing for a permanent replacement sometime soon, buoyed by a steep price cut from the Congressional Budget Office. 

Most stakeholders agree the current formula is broken because it calls for ever-increasing cuts in doctors' payments, and there is significant interest in moving to a system that won't pay doctors based on each service they provide. But the details of a new system — and how to pay for repealing the existing one — still need a lot of work. The Ways and Means Health subcommittee will hear from a range of medical groups Tuesday about the best options.

The hearing begins at 10 a.m.

'Medicare Essential': What if all Medicare coverage were combined with commonly purchased supplemental insurance under a single, unified benefit? That was the idea behind a new study by researchers at the Commonwealth Fund who predicted that a "Medicare Essential" plan could save $180 billion over 10 years and lower out-of-pocket costs for seniors.

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The savings would stem in part from lower administrative costs and in part from incentives for patients to choose efficient, high-quality healthcare providers, study authors said. They predicted that seniors would spend an average of $354 per month on healthcare costs under "Medicare Essential" compared with a projected $427 in 2014 under the status quo, and that beneficiaries who choose good providers would spend $254 per month.

Read Healthwatch's post on the report here. Over the weekend, we covered rising concerns on the left about combining Medicare Parts A and B as a means for deficit reduction. Read that story here

Tanning risks: People using tanning beds could now face some sticker shock, as federal regulators will include stronger warnings of the potential health effects. The Food and Drug Administration announced on Monday afternoon that it would be placing stricter rules on UV lights, tanning beds and tanning booths – making them subject to agency approval.

Read all the details here.

Spending slowdown: If the current slowdown in healthcare spending persists, the government might save roughly $770 billion over the next decade, according to Harvard University Professor David Cutler. He writes in the latest issue of Health Affairs that the slowdown in health spending was caused in part by the recession, and also by slower advances in medical technology and the growth of health plans that shift more costs to consumers. 

"If these trends continue during 2013–22, public-sector health care spending will be as much as $770 billion less than predicted. Such lower levels of spending would have an enormous impact on the US economy and on government and household finances," Cutler wrote.

Read his study here.


Tuesday's agenda

The House Ways and Means subcommittee on Health will hold a hearing on repealing Medicare's flawed physician payment formula.

The National Community Pharmacists Association will launch its 2013 legislative conference in Washington, D.C.

The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives will hold a forum on hospital readiness for Stage 2 Meaningful Use.

The Association of American Medical Colleges will host a briefing on trauma care in Rayburn House Office Building.

State by state

Obama administration poised to approve Ark.-style Medicaid expansions

Kansas Medicaid expansion likely to be delayed

Malloy proposing funds to help parents who would lose Medicaid coverage


Lobbying registrations

Capitol Hill Strategies / Principal Financial Group

Bryan Cave / Oxalosis & Hyperoxaluria Foundation

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld / Wisconsin Medical Society

The Raben Group / Casa de Esperanza

Richard Miller / Association of Health Sciences Colleges and Universities

John T. Doolittle / VEH Solutions

Hogan Lovells US / Vical

Thorn Run Partners / Chembio Diagnostics

Atlantic Strategies Group / Sanford Burnham Medical Research Institute

MedExpert Consulting / BioCryst Pharmaceuticals

J M Burkman & Associates / Phoenix Medical and Wellness Center

Downey McGrath Group / Press Ganey Associates

Den Perrin / Checks and Balances for Economic Growth


Reading list


Will ObamaCare lead to millions more part-time workers?

Doctor diagnostic errors often not mentioned but can take serious toll

CVS cancels Pharma-funded Rx reminders citing new HIPAA rule [free registration required]


What you might have missed on Healthwatch


Week ahead: Back to the SGR

Study: Cost-saving moves would cut Medicare rolls

FDA warns pregnant women against migraine drugs

Unified Medicare benefit would save billions, study says


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