Week ahead: Deadline for ‘doc fix’ closing in

The current short-term patch in the Medicare payment formula expires at the end of the year, leaving only a few weeks for lawmakers to stave off a major hit to doctors — and find a way to pay for it. A one-year “doc fix” would cost about $30 billion, depending on the specifics. There are several other healthcare “extenders” set to expire at the end of the year, too.

The doc fix is a perennial headache for doctors and for Congress, and once again it’s coming down to the wire amid a crush of other hot-button issues. But it might be relatively easy this time for lawmakers to assemble the targeted Medicare cuts they often use to pay for doc fixes. Most of the options were on the table for the congressional supercommittee.

Also behind the scenes on Capitol Hill, the Senate Finance Committee will continue vetting Tavenner before considering her nomination to lead the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Tavenner’s reputation as a skilled manager has helped so far, as did a ringing endorsement from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.).

Congress this week will continue looking into drug shortages — a topic the House Oversight Committee probed last week. Several important drugs, including generic versions of some cancer medications, are in short supply, and stakeholders are pushing a range of possible solutions. Proposals include offering new financial incentives to manufacturers, easing Food and Drug Administration regulations and requiring drugmakers to notify the FDA when a shortage might be around the corner.

The Finance Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday on drug shortages.

In the House, the Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on the Courts will hold a hearing on televising Supreme Court arguments. C-SPAN has asked to broadcast the upcoming arguments over Obama’s healthcare law, and several prominent lawmakers have echoed that request.

The Oversight Committee’s Health panel has a hearing scheduled for Wednesday on Medicaid fraud.

The Campaign to End Obesity is holding a workshop for congressional staffers on Monday to discuss economic incentives that can help reduce obesity.

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