OVERNIGHT HEALTH: States feel time-crunch on exchanges

Exchanges: States whose legislatures haven’t passed bills to establish an insurance exchange say they’re feeling the time-crunch as they try to plan for an exchange.

Officials from Kansas and Virginia — two states with strong political opposition to the healthcare reform law — said Wednesday that they hope their legislatures will act next year. Without a formal exchange structure, they said, it’s harder to break the implementation effort into more manageable phases.

“We do have to do kind of everything at the same time,” said Cindi Jones, director of the Virginia Health Reform Initiative, on Wednesday at a forum sponsored by the Bipartisan Policy Center.

Healthwatch’s Sam Baker has more.

Enrollment: At the same Bipartisan Policy Center event on exchanges, a top Health and Human Services official said the next round of exchanges regulations might tackle enrollment and eligibility issues. Cindy Mann, who runs the department’s Medicaid office, said more guidance on enrollment is coming “soon” and could be the next piece of the exchanges puzzle to fall in place.

Read the Healthwatch story.

Stem cell research: A federal district court tossed out a lawsuit challenging taxpayer funding for embryonic stem cell research, a victory for the White House. Still, congressional champion Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Col.) vowed to continue pushing legislation to clarify that such research is legal. Healthwatch’s Julian Pecquet has the story.

The White House immediately praised the decision. President Obama reversed restrictions imposed by former President George W. Bush as one of his first acts in office, allowing research on cell lines created after Aug. 9, 2001.

“For too long, patients and families have suffered from debilitating, incurable diseases and we know that stem cell research offers hope to millions of Americans across the country,” deputy senior adviser Stephanie Cutter wrote on the White House blog. “President Obama is committed to supporting responsible stem cell research and today’s ruling was another step in the right direction.”

Global health cut: House appropriators passed a spending bill that cuts the administration’s Global Health Initiative by $700 billion. AIDS advocates immediately decried the cuts’ potential impact on the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

“We urge Congress to make the right decision, both morally and economically, to preserve funding for global health programs,” Charles Lyons, of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, said in a statement. “It’s been a smart and successful investment, and one that deserves continued support.”

The House State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee bill also cuts funding for contraceptive services overseas by 25 percent, legislatively codifies Global Gag Rule restrictions and prohibits a U.S. contribution to the United Nations’s lead family-planning agency.

Rural health: Rural Americans stand to gain the most from the healthcare law’s coverage expansions, says a new report from UnitedHealth’s Center for Health Reform and Modernization. But the gains will only materialize if patients can actually get access to care.

The report, Modernizing Rural Health Care, calls for investments in primary care medical homes, mobile health clinics and telemedicine, among several recommendations. It also examines regulatory barriers that impede rural health, including state scope-of-practice restrictions on nurse practitioners and federal regulatory barriers to telehealth.

Medigap: Some 9.7 million people are enrolled in Medigap coverage this year, an increase of 300,000 from last year, says a new report from the insurance trade group America’s Health Insurance Plans. The report comes as debt-ceiling negotiators have proposed higher out-of-pocket costs and deductibles for Medigap plans as a way to reduce seniors’ demand for care — and Medicare costs.

Veterans for antibiotics: A coalition of 35 veterans and military organizations are calling on Congress to support legislation to promote antibiotic drugs. The Generating Antibiotic Incentives Now Act of 2011, introduced by Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.), would incentivize research and development of new antibiotics.

Thursday’s agenda:

Medicare fraud: Medicare’s $48 billion in improper payments is on track to increase next year, HHS’s Inspector General is expected to testify at a House Oversight hearing. Simultaneously, the committee’s healthcare panel examines the healthcare reform law’s effect on employers and their decision to offer insurance.

Hospital help: The Energy and Committee marks up legislation to reauthorize Children’s Hospital Graduate Medical Education funding and two public health bills. The bills sailed through the Health subcommittee on Tuesday.

User fees: FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg testifies before the Senate Health Committee on ongoing negotiations to reauthorize user fees for pharmaceuticals and medical devices.

Later in the afternoon, Hamburg talks drugs and safety at Public Citizen’s headquarters.

Lobbying registrations:

McDermott Will & Emery / Medicare Dependent Rural Hospital Coalition

Alston & Bird / Medical Mutual of Ohio

Petrizzo Strategic Group / Constellation Pharmaceuticals (epigenetic biology)

Alston & Bird / Medica (health insurer)

Alston & Bird / Genentech (pharmaceutical company)

Reading list:

Four insurance companies failed to pay rebates after missing Florida’s medical loss ratio requirements, the AP reports.

Two large insurers — Aetna and Wellpoint — reported higher-than-expected earnings in the second quarter, according to Dow Jones.

California Healthline ranks the pieces of healthcare reform that are most in jeopardy as Congress looks to cut spending.

Fox Business offers a preview of insurance exchanges.

Reps. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) take to The Daily Caller to make the case for Medicaid reform.

What you might have missed on Healthwatch:

Returning veterans’ health could cost $50B over 10 years, the CBO testified.


Comments / complaints / suggestions? Please let us know:

Julian Pecquet: jpecquet@thehill.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it / 202-628-8527

Sam Baker: sbaker@thehill.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it / 202-628-8351

Follow us on Twitter @hillhealthwatch


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