OVERNIGHT HEALTH: What will Obama do about Medicare, Medicaid?

Holtz-Eakin, who served as Congressional Budget Office director under President George W. Bush, told The Hill that the report’s goal is to explain how states could benefit from a block-granting proposal that has evident deficit-cutting benefits for the federal government. 

“At the state level, the temptation to expand eligibility when things are good has overwhelmed the ability of states to maintain that eligibility during downturns,” he said. “And at the federal level we’ve never put Medicaid on sound financial footing. So we’ve got a program that at both levels is not financially viable over the long term so we don’t have the social safety net secured for the next generation.” 

The proposal also recommends extending Medicaid drug rebates for those beneficiaries who are also on Medicare, a move that faces bitter opposition from the pharmaceutical industry, and moving those beneficiaries into Medicaid managed care.

Rockefeller not buying it: Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), a long-time Medicaid champion, is finalizing a “Dear Colleague” letter to the president opposing the block-granting proposal and steep cuts to the program in the 2012 House GOP budget.

“Slashing this program or placing an arbitrary, hard cap on funding would undermine our commitment to the American people,” Rockefeller said in a statement. “I stand ready to work with the President and Congressional leaders on policies that would improve quality and reduce costs within Medicaid, but only in a way that also guarantees the provision of quality, effective, and efficient care.”

Sparing lives, saving money: The Obama administration unveiled a new public-private partnership effort on Tuesday that it says could save 60,000 lives and $35 billion over three years by reducing medical errors by 40 percent. Healthwatch’s Julian Pecquet has a rundown.

Death by almost five billion cuts: The 2011 budget deal reached Friday night cuts $4.93 billion over 2010 spending for labor, health and human services. See the breakdown here.

FDA and AIDS cuts averted: The continuing resolution, however, ended up increasing funding for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program by $48 million, while the Food and Drug Administration would receive a $107 million increase over FY 2010 funding levels.

“Congress heard our message that a robust well-funded FDA is essential for patients, consumers and industry,” said Nancy Bradish Myers, president of the Alliance for a Stronger FDA. “Safe foods and safe and effective medical products are possible only if FDA has the resources and manpower to address complex science and increasing globalization.”

Bad news for reform: A new Associated Press-GfK poll shows support for healthcare reform is at the lowest point since September 2009. Just 35 percent support it, while 45 percent oppose it. Check out the AP story.

Playing nice: Likely Republican presidential candidate Haley Barbour, on Capitol Hill Tuesday, declined numerous questions from reporters about former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s healthcare reform. “Let Mitt have his day,” Barbour said. “He just announced.” Check out The Hill story

Consumers need to pitch in more, Barbour says: Barbour offered up three major prescriptions for getting a handle on healthcare spending: greater price transparency, greater transparency on outcomes and greater contributions from consumers. “When people have first-dollar benefits, they don’t care what it costs,” Barbour said. Check out the Healthwatch post.

Making good on the deal: The Rules Committee met Tuesday at 5 p.m. to mark up bills that would block funding for healthcare reform and Planned Parenthood. The upcoming House and Senate votes on the bills were part of the 2011 budget deal struck late Friday night.

Sweet irony: The American Dietetic Association is being skewered in some quarters for accepting corporate sponsorships from the Coca-Cola Company and Pepsico.

Wednesday agenda:

Gov. Patrick talks healthcare reform: Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) will be at the Center for American Progress to talk about the state’s healthcare reform, which just turned five on Tuesday, and his new battle to control healthcare costs. 

More budget stuff: The Congressional Progressive Caucus will hold a news conference Wednesday to discuss its budget proposal, which it says will provide a budget surplus by 2021. The Senate Finance Committee holds a hearing to gather expert input on deficit reduction.

FDA oversight: Food and Drug Administration Commissioner
Margaret Hamburg will testify before the House Oversight Health
subpanel about the agency’s process for screening imports. Meanwhile, the Senate Special Committee on Aging will look at the FDA’s efforts to ensure patient safety.

Reading list:

Ahead of President Obama’s Wednesday deficit speech, a progressive group is urging supporters not to donate to his campaign if he cuts Medicare and Medicaid, the Huffington Post reports.

Democrats in several states celebrated the fifth anniversary of Massachusetts healthcare reform, Reuters reports.

How can Democrats use the GOP proposal to overhaul Medicare to their advantage in 2012? All they have to do is look back at 2010, The New York Times writes.

Healthcare consultant Alec Vachon tells Kaiser Health News that the House GOP’s Medicare overhaul is a “budget solution” and not a “health policy solution.”

A review of 4,000 studies finds little evidence to support many drugs and therapies used to treat autism, American Medical News reports.

Tevi Troy, a former Republican Health and Human Services deputy secretary, pans new accountable care organization rules in the Weekly Standard.

An Arizona attorney who was planning to sue over the state’s Medicaid cuts, may wait for federal regulators to weigh in first, the Arizona Republic reports.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) is seeking to offload his family’s urgent care clinics, The Associated Press reports.

What you might have missed on Healthwatch:

More than half of Americans think the country’s quality of healthcare is average at best. 

Healthwatch’s Julian Pecquet profiles Republican healthcare lobbyist Behrends Foster.

Comments / complaints / suggestions?

Please contact Julian Pecquet: / 202-628-8527

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