Health Roundup: Senate greenlights food-safety bill, fails on 1099

House passes "doc fix": The House passed the Senate's 1-month "fix" to the Medicare Physician Payment Formula by voice vote. Without the fix, physicians faced a 23 percent cut in their Medicare reimbursements, starting Wednesday.

The $1 billion fix is paid for by a 20 percent cut to therapist reimbursements. A large physician group applauded the temporary delay but pressed Congress to pass a one-year fix quickly to give lawmakers time to find a permanent solution.

Barton invites Medicare chief to brief House panel: Ranking Energy and Commerce member Joe Barton (R-Texas) on Monday requested that Medicare administrator Donald Berwick brief the panel before the end of the lame-duck session. Barton is in a tight race to take the helm of the powerful committee.

Earlier this month, Berwick provided his first testimony to Congress since his July recess appointment. After the Senate Finance Committee hearing, Republicans complained they were not given enough time to question him.


AIDS cases in Africa to far outpace treatment by 2020: The number of HIV/AIDS cases in Africa is on track to far outpace treatment resources by the end of the decade, according to an Institute of Medicine report released Monday. 

By 2020, the number of infected people in Africa will grow to more than 30 million, from today's approximately 22 million. Only about 12 million of those 30 million will be eligible for antiretroviral therapy paid for in part by the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and other international efforts; and of those eligible, a little more than half — 7 million — will be likely to receive treatment, according to the report.

Voters think reform repeal "somewhat likely": Nearly half of likely U.S. voters (47 percent) believe that repeal of healthcare reform is somewhat likely, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. That number is just a tick above the 46 percent who said the same just after the midterm elections. 

Meanwhile, 39 percent said repeal of healthcare reform is unlikely, down from 44 percent a few weeks ago.

SBA wants Pitts to head health subpanel: The Susan B. Anthony List has added its voice to the chorus of anti-abortion rights groups that want Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) to be given the Energy and Commerce health subcommittee gavel. The National Right to Life Committee took that position two weeks ago. 

The current ranking member on the health subpanel, Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), is in a tight fight to head the entire panel. SBA List also says it wants all new members on the committee to "reflect the values of the pro-life American majority that sent a freshman class to Congress with marching orders to end all federal funding of abortion."


On the agenda for Tuesday

Senate takes up food safety: The Senate picks up where it left off Monday night by taking up Sen. Tom CoburnThomas (Tom) Allen CoburnBiden and AOC's reckless spending plans are a threat to the planet NSF funding choice: Move forward or fall behind DHS establishes domestic terror unit within its intelligence office MORE's two amendments to the food-safety bill before voting on final passage of the bill itself. The Oklahoma Republican has one amendment that would replace the Senate bill with a stripped-down substitute to the bill; the other is a moratorium on congressionally directed appropriations.

The votes are scheduled to start at 9:15 a.m.

Syringe reuse still a problem: Some healthcare workers are putting patients at risk through the reuse of syringes and single-dose vials, according to a peer-reviewed study to be publicly released Tuesday. The study calls for clearer labeling of medication vials and improved training and education after six percent of respondents reported "sometimes or always" reusing single-dose vials on more than one patient.

Unsafe injection practices contribute to increases in outbreaks of hepatitis B and C viruses and bacterial infections. The study, authored by the Premier healthcare alliance, appear in December's American Journal of Infection Control.

FDA effectiveness questioned: The pharma practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers releases a new study on Tuesday raising questions about the effectiveness of the Food and Drug Administration's relationship with industry. Look for more on Healthwatch Tuesday morning.

SCOTUS to hear prison health appeal: The U.S. Supreme Court will hear California's appeal of a court order that called for the state to reduce its inmate population by 40,000 to ease overcrowding and improve prison healthcare conditions, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Around the Web

Insurers face fines: California’s seven largest health insurers face $4.85 million in fines for improper and late claim payments, reports The Associated Press.

Rewards for efficient care questioned: As hospitals and doctors seek to capture healthcare reform's rewards for efficient care, The Wall Street Journal asks whether the law's incentives can truly save money, or if they might actually drive costs higher.

Sebelius expects House repeal: Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen SebeliusKathleen Sebelius65 former governors, mayors back bipartisan infrastructure deal Fauci: 'Horrifying' to hear CPAC crowd cheering anti-vaccination remarks The Memo: Biden and Democrats face dilemma on vaccine mandates MORE said Monday that she fully expects the House to repeal the healthcare reform law, according to The Associated Press. However, she believes the law will survive the challenge, she said in remarks at Kansas State University earlier this afternoon.

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