- OVERNIGHT HEALTH: Assault on CLASS Act resumes
House Republicans, as we predicted last month, are continuing to move full steam ahead with their attacks against President Obama’s healthcare reform law after voting last year to repeal the whole thing.
The Ways and Means Committee convenes Wednesday morning to mark up a repeal of the law’s long-term CLASS Act, an effort that was cut short last year after the House ran out of time to deal with it. The Energy and Commerce Committee voted 33-17 in November to repeal the voluntary payroll deduction program. The Hill has more on tomorrow’s markup here.
Republicans believe the program is mortally wounded after the Obama administration put it on hold in October, saying it can’t find a way to make it solvent “at this time.” House leaders think they have the political advantage over Democrats, who are left with the unpalatable choice of repealing a program they voted for or risking criticism for supporting an unsustainable entitlement.
The repeal bill “puts the Democrats in a very difficult position,” Rep. Charles Boustany Jr. (R-La.), the bill’s sponsor, told The Hill last year. “They have to decide whether they’re going to do the fiscally responsible thing and repeal the program or support something that is fiscally irresponsible.”
- Hospital trade group issues alert on looming cuts
The American Hospital Association issued an action alert to its members Tuesday asking them to urge their lawmakers to avoid looming cuts as the House reconvenes this week.
Congress punted last month on a long-term extension of the payroll tax cut and the Medicare “doc fix,” requiring action by the end of next month. Postponing scheduled Medicare payment cuts beyond that date would cost about $30 billion per year of delay, and hospitals are worried that Congress could try to get the money from them.
“During December’s negotiations,” the alert warns, “issues of serious concern to hospitals” came into play.
- Rep. Bono Mack slams FDA over drug recalls
Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.) on Tuesday accused federal regulators of being asleep at the switch when they failed to issue a recall of mislabeled painkillers.
Bono Mack said the agency knew about problems at a Novartis manufacturing facility in Nebraska for years but failed to take action until the drugmaker voluntarily closed its facility and issued a recall for over-the-counter medications in the past few weeks.
The facility has received 12 citations for quality-control problems and 166 complaints of mixed pills in bottles since 2009, Bono Mack said.
- Pharmacy benefit managers launch new ad campaign
Pharmacy benefit managers are launching a new ad campaign as Congress weighs a controversial merger between two of the industry’s biggest players.
Several lawmakers have raised questions about the proposed merger between Express Scripts and Medco, which would further consolidate the already shrinking competition among firms that manage prescription drug benefits.
The Pharmaceutical Care Management Association launched new ads Tuesday touting PBMs’ ability to lower prices for consumers and employers. PBMs negotiate discounts between drugmakers and pharmacies, while also pushing for wider use of generics and mail-order prescription plans.
Small pharmacies have a longstanding feud with PBMs, which push more business to mail-order and large pharmacy chains. Some critics of the Express Scripts-Medco merger have questioned whether consumers would actually see any savings.
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