OVERNIGHT HEALTHCARE: Health spending drops despite O-Care sign-ups

Spending on healthcare actually decreased in the first three months of the year despite the flood of enrollments in ObamaCare, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reported on Wednesday. 

An earlier estimate of gross domestic product (GDP) found healthcare spending had actually increased by 10 percent in the first quarter, boosting overall growth. Some experts interpreted that figure as a sign that people were using their new coverage under ObamaCare.

But the final GDP report paints a far different picture, finding healthcare spending decreased and subtracted 0.16 percent from economic growth as the economy shrank by 2.9 percent.

Healthcare spending is considered a marker for how well ObamaCare is doing. As more people have access to health insurance they are expected to seek treatments contributing to an increase in healthcare spending. http://bit.ly/1lQzWmx


Autism bill: The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee quickly approved legislation Wednesday to reauthorize federal autism research and services for five years.

The bipartisan bill, which now advances to the Senate floor, is identical to a measure passed by the House on Tuesday night and has a strong likelihood of becoming law this summer.

The bill's approval in committee is a victory for autism advocates who pushed Congress to renew programs before lawmakers leave for the August recess. The underlying statute, the Combating Autism Act, is due to expire at the end of September unless it is extended. http://bit.ly/TxSNbf


Medicare identity theft: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) says it needs more funding from Congress before it can take Social Security numbers off the Medicare cards issued to senior citizens.

Republican lawmakers asked Shantanu Agrawal, the new deputy administrator at CMS’s Center for Program Integrity, why the agency has not carried out recommendations from the Government Accountability Office to remove the numbers to prevent identity theft.

At one point, Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnWhat the net neutrality repeal means Dem Senate super PAC reserves million in fall TV ads Scalise throws support behind Black, Blackburn ahead of Tennessee primary MORE (R-Tenn.), vice-chairwoman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, pulled out a giant mock Medicare card during the hearing and asked why Social Security numbers were still on them.

“When are you going to delink these?” she asked.

Agrawal said the agency needs to change 70 different systems in state government and the private sector that manage Medicare information before the numbers can be taken off the cards.

“As an agency we need to have resources to make that happen,” he added. http://bit.ly/TxAsep


Anti-fraud win: The Obama administration announced Wednesday that a new anti-fraud program in Medicare doubled the amount of improper payments it identified or prevented this year. 

The Fraud Prevention System at CMS recovered or prevented more than $210 million of improper payments in its second year, the agency told Congress in a report.

The program, which uses predictive analytics to study billing patterns, also prompted CMS to take action against 938 providers and Medicare suppliers.

Federal health officials are anxious to find new strategies for rooting out waste, fraud and abuse in Medicare as the program becomes more expensive.

While $210 million is a small sum compared to total Medicare spending, the administration said its efforts have led to a record $19.2 billion in fraud recoveries over five years. http://bit.ly/1qJFh2m


Child gun deaths: New research from a gun control group backed by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg finds the federal government is underestimating the number of children killed in unintentional firearm deaths.

The report from Everytown for Gun Safety looked at a one-year period beginning in December 2012, and found at least 100 unintentional shooting deaths in that time, or almost two a week. That's 60 percent more than reflected in federal data.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows an average of 62 child gun deaths annually.

The study, which concludes that the vast majority of the deaths could have been prevented by safe storage of guns, is accompanied by new polling showing public support for regulations requiring firearms to be kept unloaded and locked.

Everytown for Gun Safety is a coalition that includes Mom’s Demand Action for Gun Safety in America and Mayors Against Illegal Guns. http://bit.ly/1lqeKEc


GOP blocks DC pot: House Republicans passed a measure Wednesday that would block funding for Washington, D.C.’s new measure decriminalizing marijuana, creating doubts about the law's implementation. 

Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) tacked the measure onto a broader federal spending bill over the objections of Democrats who accused the GOP of hypocrisy.

Harris countered that the D.C. law was far too cavalier about marijuana, especially given that Washington has one of the highest rates in the country for using the drug. Plus, Harris noted that his proposal wouldn’t affect the capital’s medical marijuana law.

The broader appropriations bill that includes the marijuana rider now heads to the House floor, where it is also expected to pass. That means the rider’s ultimate fate could be decided in negotiations between the House and Senate over congressional spending measures.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) on Wednesday vowed to continue to fight the GOP proposal and said Harris violated traditional GOP principles of deferring to local governments. She also noted that Harris’s own state recently decriminalized marijuana, in a move opposed by the congressman. http://bit.ly/1lQjoLk


State by state:

Va. House GOP lays out Medicaid legal strategy: http://abcn.ws/1jjx6lQ

Group asks court to toss Medicaid suit in Ariz.:http://bit.ly/1jP4Kjr

The state of senior health depends on your state: http://ti.me/1iw77ge


Reading list:

Medicare Advantage plans require more scrutiny: http://yhoo.it/1nHZSht

FDA panel votes for more data before approval of AstraZeneca drug: http://reut.rs/1iHb69x

CMS not seeking improvement plans' audit performance: http://bit.ly/1lVd7zv


What you might have missed at The Hill:

Group says expanding Medicaid can shrink prison populations: http://bit.ly/1ldMiAR

House Dems push new food safety bill: http://bit.ly/1pPlT2e

NBC responds to 'abortion' ad controversy: http://bit.ly/1lqgqh6