OVERNIGHT HEALTHCARE: O-Care funding bill delayed

Legislation funding ObamaCare for 2015 is not likely to come to the Senate floor as a standalone measure open to amendment, the subcommittee chairman in charge of the legislation said Thursday.

The Labor, Health and Human Services bill was supposed to be marked up in the full Appropriations Committee hearing this week, said Sen. Tom HarkinThomas (Tom) Richard HarkinDem Senator open to bid from the left in 2020 Senate GOP rejects Trump’s call to go big on gun legislation Trump should require federal contractors to follow the law MORE (D-Iowa), but now it is at the back of the line.

He said because of the difficulty in securing floor time and in getting agreements on amendments with Republicans, it is unlikely to be considered separately on the floor and will end up in an omnibus package.

Harkin denied that leaders have taken the bill off the schedule because vulnerable Democrats feared it would provoke "gotcha" amendments hurting their reelection chances in November.

He said the immediate decision to postpone a markup this week had more to do with the funeral of the father of subcommittee ranking member Sen. Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranTrump VA pick faces challenge to convince senators he’s ready for job Overnight Finance: Senate repeals auto-lending guidance, shattering precedent with vote | House passes IRS reform bills | Senate GOP fears tax cut sequel Senate repeals auto-loan guidance in precedent-shattering vote MORE (R-Kan.) than anything else. http://bit.ly/1hNOio4


NOT BUYING IT:  Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderThe risk of kicking higher ed reauthorization down the road Maternal deaths keep rising in US, raising scrutiny Supreme Court weighs future of online sales taxes MORE (R-Tenn.), though, thinks it’s all politics and chided Democrats for canceling the markup bill. 

“Our markup was indefinitely postponed ... because some senators don’t want to vote on difficult or tough amendments,” Alexander said on the Senate floor Thursday. “That’s what we do.”

He said he hoped to offer at least four amendments at that hearing, one of which would have required the administration to provide weekly reports on who is enrolling in the ObamaCare health exchange. http://bit.ly/1hSfBOp


HEALTHCARE TRANSPARENCY: Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenTrump struggles to get new IRS team in place CIA declassifies memo on nominee's handling of interrogation tapes Dem senators demand Trump explain ties to Koch brothers MORE (D-Ore.) is asking the healthcare world for its input on how big data could promote reform. 

In a letter to roughly 100 stakeholder groups and individuals, Wyden and Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGrassley renews complaints about History Channel Republicans divided over legislation protecting Mueller The Hill's Morning Report: Inside the Comey memos MORE (R-Iowa) posed broad questions about how data transparency could benefit their work.

It provides a glimpse into one of Wyden's interests and priorities as the new Finance Committee chairman.

The Oregon Democrat has repeatedly touted moves by the Obama administration under the healthcare law to publish data on hospital prices and Medicare billing by physicians. http://bit.ly/1oYKM9k


WYDEN TOUTS BUNDLED PAYMENTS: While pushing his healthcare transparency initiative at a data transparency event sponsored by AARP and the Business Rountable, Wyden also suggested that bundled payments must be part of a permanent "doc fix" in order to deal a blow to fee-for-service medicine.

"What we would do is for the first time, change the law and say that the government could give a collective payment ... that's why [reforming the sustainable growth rate] is so important,” he said. “SGR [reform] finally moves the biggest American program aggressively away from fee-for-service. It takes us to the next step which is chronic disease reform."

Congress failed to pass a permanent SGR fix earlier this year despite serious momentum in House and Senate committees. The final sticking point was how to pay for the reform, which would cost between $150 and $180 billion over 10 years.


INSURERS LINING UP FOR EXCHANGES: A growing number of insurers say they intend to offer coverage on the ObamaCare exchanges next year. 

Insurance plans in New Hampshire, Michigan and Illinois are planning to enter into the federal marketplaces after deciding not to participate during ObamaCare’s first enrollment period, according to news reports.

In New Hampshire, the number of ObamaCare insurers is set to rise from one to five next year; from 13 to 18 in Michigan; and from six to 10 in Illinois.

The White House seized on the growing participation in ObamaCare to argue the law is succeeding. http://bit.ly/1v6gOnx


GOP SHIFTS TACTICS: House Republicans sought to open a new line of attack on ObamaCare Thursday by criticizing narrow doctor and hospital networks on some exchange plans. 

"This trend is particularly dangerous for those dealing with serious diseases that may have to go out-of-network," said House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee Chairman Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) at a hearing on the issue.

"Even those with serious illnesses have found that the doctors they know and like are no longer participating in the new exchange plans."

GOP lawmakers blamed the healthcare law rather than insurance companies, saying that new requirements and costs are forcing plans to limit the providers they cover. http://bit.ly/1oYSEHS



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