Healthcare Thursday

Repeal on everyone's mind: President Obama pushed back Wednesday against the notion that his party's midterm rout amounts to a mandate for the GOP to repeal Democrats' healthcare reform law.

Republicans, meanwhile, argued the opposite.

"We'd be misreading the election if we thought that the American people want to see us for the next two years relitigate arguments that we had over the past two years," Obama told reporters.

House Republican Whip Eric Cantor (Va.), however, told CBS News on Tuesday that he wants to put a repeal bill on the floor "right away" when Congress reconvenes in January.

But what about the cost? Meanwhile, Education and Labor Committee Chair George Miller (D-Calif.) issues what's basically a dare for Republicans to repeal the law.

"This healthcare bill … saves $100 billion in the first 10 years and $1 trillion in the second 10 years," Miller said Wednesday in an interview with San Francisco's KGO radio. "So, they're going to have to pay for those changes when they go back to their so-called commonsense ideas."

An "adult conversation" on Medicare? Tuesday's elections might have been largely a referendum on the size of government and deficit spending. Still, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) said victorious House Republicans have no specific plans to tackle entitlement spending — the most significant driver behind the nation's budget woes.

"We start with all of your discretionary spending," Blackburn told MSNBC's Chris Matthews on Tuesday night, "[and] then you have an adult conversation about how to address Medicare and Social Security and the entitlements."

The terminology is no accident. Last month, as Republicans were unveiling their "Pledge to America," House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) also declined to specify how the GOP intends to rein in entitlement spending.

DME contracts out: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Wednesday released the list of 356 suppliers who have won contracts to provide durable medical equipment for nine communities across the country.

The competitive bidding program, created by the 2003 Medicare reform law, aims to save patients and the government money by replacing standard fees with market competition among providers. The program, which slashes prices by 32 percent, begins Jan. 1 in nine areas.

Abortion foes claim big win: Seventeen of the 22 Democrats targeted by two prominent anti-abortion groups will not return to Congress next year, doomed in part by their support for a healthcare reform bill that many Americans worried would open the way to taxpayer-funded abortion. The Susan B. Anthony List spent $3.1 million on its "Votes Have Consequences" campaign targeting 19 self-described "pro-life" Democrats in vulnerable districts. Only five — Reps. Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Marcy Kaptur (Ohio), Sanford Bishop (Ga.), Nick Rahall (W.Va.) and Dennis Cardoza (Calif.) — survived.

Nonprofit health plans rank high: Nonprofit health insurance plans are the top-ranking plans in the country, according to a review of the 2010 rankings recently released by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA). 

The review found that nonprofits took:

• The first 10 spots for the 183 Medicare plans reporting; 

• The first 10 spots for the 104 Medicaid plans reporting;

• Nine of the first 10 spots for the 227 private plans reporting.

States get help for Medicaid and insurance exchanges: The Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday announced new federal support for states to develop and upgrade Medicaid IT systems and systems for enrollment in state Exchanges.

Proposed regulations published in the Federal Register would make Medicaid eligibility systems potentially eligible for an enhanced federal matching rate of 90 percent for design and development of new systems and a 75 percent federal matching rate for maintenance and operations.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and HHS's Office of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight are issuing initial technical guidance that will help States decide how they will design, develop and implement new or improved IT systems for the new health insurance Exchanges, Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Biomedical research grants announced: The federal government on Wednesday announced the recipients of the $1 billion in new therapeutic discovery project credits and grants created by the healthcare reform law. The program will help nearly 3,000 small biotechnology companies across the country produce new and cost-saving therapies.

Georgia docs blast AMA: The Medical Association of Georgia's House of Delegates recently adopted a resolution calling on the American Medical Association to "rectify the negative aspects of the [health reform] bill and diligently continue to pursue avenues to retract the positions previously taken by the AMA."

New medical professionals elected to Congress: Republican victories have added 11 new medical professionals to the ranks of Congress. Here's the breakdown:


Arkansas: John Boozman (optometrist)

Kentucky: Rand Paul (ophthalmologist)


Arizona 1: Paul Gosar (dentist)

Indiana 8: Larry Bucshon (cardiothoracic surgeon)

Maryland 1: Andy Harris (anesthesiologist)

Michigan 1: Dan Benishek (general surgery)

Nevada 3: Joe Heck (emergency physician)

New York 19: Nan Hayworth (ophthalmologic surgeon)

North Carolina 2: Renee Ellmers (nurse)

Tennessee 4: Scott DesJarlais (physician)

Tennessee 6: Diane Black (nurse)