Healthcare News February 15, 2012

  • OVERNIGHT HEALTH: GOP will get contraception vote

    Senate Republicans aren’t going to let the contraception debate go away quietly. The Senate will vote soon on a proposal to repeal the White House’s coverage mandate, which Republicans pressed even after President Obama announced new “accommodations” for employers like Catholic universities and hospitals.

    Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday that he will let the Republican contraception bill come up for a vote as an amendment to the transportation bill. He blocked the same measure last week.

    Reid knocked Republicans for offering “extraneous” amendments to the highway bill, and the bill’s Republican manager, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) has also been trying to limit the number of amendments. An Inhofe spokesman said the senator is hoping for a “relatively clean” transportation bill but would vote for the Blunt amendment if it comes up.

    Read the Healthwatch post on Reid’s announcement, as well as our coverage of Democrats hammering the Blunt amendment earlier in the day.

  • Reid will allow vote on repeal of administration’s birth control mandate

    The vote could test the handful of Democratic senators who haven’t taken a position on the revised contraception policy.

  • GOP senators link support for payroll tax cut package to looser bounds on physician-owned hospitals

    Republican senators involved in reconciling the House and Senate versions of the payroll tax cut and other expiring provisions said any deal should ease the health law’s restrictions on doctor-owned hospitals.

    “That too is a matter that is in some contention,” Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) told a conference of the American Medical Association on Tuesday. “Neither side wants to give. I’ve made it clear to [Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), the top Democratic negotiator] that Congress cannot declare that the Senate position is bipartisan as long as” it doesn’t address the issue.

    President Obama’s healthcare reform law bans new physician-owned hospitals from participating in the Medicare program and restricts existing ones’ ability to expand. Democrats say the institutions unfairly compete with other hospitals and drive up healthcare costs through unjustified patient referrals. But critics say the restrictions are too burdensome, barring even some hospitals that were under construction at the time of the law’s passage from being completed.

  • Obama administration claims record $4.1 billion in Medicare fraud savings

    The Obama administration saved the federal Medicare program $4.1 billion last year thanks to its investments in efforts to prevent fraud, waste and abuse, according to a new report from the Justice and Health and Human Services departments.

    That’s almost twice the $2.14 billion in fraudulent claims recouped in 2008, according to the report, while the number of individuals charged with fraud increased 75 percent — to 1,403 — over the same time period. 

    The report credits investments made in the healthcare reform law, including tougher sentencing guidelines, enhanced screening for Medicare providers and suppliers, better coordination between health and law enforcement officials and technological investments.

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