OVERNIGHT HEALTHCARE: Senate Dems unveil bill to reverse Hobby Lobby ruling

Senate Democrats introduced legislation on Wednesday to effectively reverse the Supreme Court’s decision exempting some employers from providing insurance coverage for contraception. 

The bill would bar for-profit, closely held corporations from seeking exemptions from ObamaCare’s birth control mandate. Religiously-affiliated institutions would still be able to ask for an exemption.

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“Our bill simply says that your boss cannot get between you and your own healthcare,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the bill’s sponsor, told reporters.

“Last week, we saw the Supreme Court give CEOs and corporations across America the green light to deny legally mandated healthcare coverage for their employees. Women across the country are outraged,” she said.

Senate leaders vowed to fast-track the legislation, but such a measure is unlikely to pass the GOP-controlled House. Read more: http://bit.ly/1mzvJUt

In the House, Democratic Reps. Louise Slaughter (N.Y.) and Diana DeGette (Colo.), co-chairwomen of the House Pro-Choice Caucus, and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.) on Wednesday unveiled the Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act.

In the Hobby Lobby case, the Supreme Court said the ObamaCare birth-control mandate was overly burdensome under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

The House bill would make federally mandated health services exempt from RFRA scrutiny unless they are religiously affiliated. Read more: http://bit.ly/1syMRLh

 

GAO REPORT: Medicare and Medicaid accounted for the majority of the estimated $105 billion in improper payments distributed by the government last year, federal investigators said Wednesday in a report.

Traditional Medicare, Medicare Advantage and Medicaid paid out a total of $62.2 billion in improper payments in 2013, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) told Congress in prepared testimony.

An improper payment is defined by law as a payment that should not have been made or was made in an incorrect amount.

Error rates at the Department of Health and Human Services ranged from 10 percent in Medicare fee-for-service to 5.8 percent in Medicaid. The vast majority of errors were overpayments.

An official with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said most of the agency's improper payments were the result of money dispersed without the right documentation.

The problem was the subject of a House hearing on Wednesday, where Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) slammed the errors as destructive to the federal budget.

"In sheer dollars alone, one of the areas that concerns me and every American is healthcare and the staggering cost of healthcare," said Mica, chairman of the Oversight Subcommittee on Government Operations, which held the hearing. Read more: http://bit.ly/1okeJin

 

CMS UNDER FIRE: A Senate committee blasted CMS during a Wednesday hearing for failing to prevent record-high improper payments and for putting undue burden on falsely accused providers.

“The bottom line is, despite doing more audits than ever before, Medicare just isn't getting the job done when it comes to preventing payment errors,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging. “Medicare must change the way it pays its providers so that the cheats are getting caught and the honest providers are getting paid.”

The committee released a bipartisan report Wednesday that says improper Medicare payments are at a record high and that CMS hasn't done enough to fix the problem.

The report notes improper Medicare payments have climbed from 8.5 percent in 2012 to 10.1 percent in 2013, despite the fact the CMS has hired more recovery audit contractors (RACs) to track providers who may be overbilling for Medicare services.

"The increase in audits has not translated into a reduction in improper payments,” noted Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), ranking member on the committee. “In fact Medicare is currently experiencing its highest improper payment rate in five years."

The committee recommends CMS audits focus on providers who have made improper claims in the past, compensate auditors based on their ability to prevent improper payments, and improve its ability to track claims that have already been audited so there isn't any duplication. Read more: http://bit.ly/VM04Wv

 

THURSDAY SCHEDULE:

The House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Energy Policy, Health Care, and Entitlements will hold a hearing on "Medicare Mismanagement Part II: Exploring Medicare Appeals Reform."

The American Medical Rehabilitation Providers Association will hold a briefing on "Medicare Rehabilitation Benefit," focusing on a new national study comparing patient outcomes for rehabilitation care provided in rehabilitation hospitals and nursing homes.

CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield will hold a discussion on "The Promise of Care Coordination and Future of PCMH [patient-centered medical home]: Driving Quality Gains and Cost Savings."

 

STATE BY STATE:

Tennessee accused of failing to follow health law: http://bit.ly/TTDEAN

Va. Republicans announce special session on Medicaid: http://bit.ly/1n8NwOr

Federal judge won't dismiss Medicaid lawsuit for Fla.: http://on.tdo.com/VM1MXU

  

LOBBYING REGISTRATION:

Mr. John Coster/ American Society of Health System Pharmacists

Nelson, Mullins, Riley & Scarborough/ Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP/ Amarin Corporation PLC

  

READING LIST:

Coburn wonders why HHS doesn't check guardians' immigration status: http://bit.ly/TTyvIZ

The amazing decline in Medicare's price tag: http://bit.ly/1toOUpB

CMS may soften documentation rule for home healthcare: http://bit.ly/VYNW4I

Dubious Medicare billing found at clinical labs: http://bit.ly/1syQqB9

  

WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED AT THE HILL:

HHS announces new care reform awards: http://bit.ly/1toO0cE

AHIP: Health savings accounts on the rise: http://bit.ly/1qWEFaa

GOP wants look at CDC's books after anthrax scare: http://bit.ly/1nfqni2

House panel to attack O-Care application problems: http://bit.ly/U4KPGS

Heroin major focus of new WH drug strategy: http://bit.ly/1toOf7u

Bill would ban BPA in food packaging: http://bit.ly/VM16Se