Healthcare News January 24, 2013

  • OVERNIGHT HEALTH: Senate to join mental-health debate

    The Senate will add its voice to debates over mental health in the United States with a key hearing Thursday at the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) announced that the event will focus on ways to expand access to mental-health services for people in need. Prevention and early intervention strategies will also receive top billing.

    Questions about gun violence and mental health in the U.S. hit Washington following last month’s deadly shooting in Newtown, Conn. As the Obama administration urges new gun-control measures, officials have also recommended a hard look at the provision of mental healthcare in the United States and its relationship to the criminal justice system. Lawmakers have introduced bills to expand mental health services, and the House Democratic Gun Violence Prevention Task Force hosted a briefing and panel discussion on the topic Tuesday.

    Thursday’s hearing will include testimony from Pamela Hyde,
    administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
    Administration; Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of
    Mental Health at the National Institutes of Health; and a panel of other
    experts. 

    Orszag on cost control: Peter Orszag, the former director of the White House budget office, has a few ideas for curbing healthcare spending. Among them: “require any patient admitted to a hospital to fill out an advance directive about their end-of-life care preferences.” The services that some people choose to skip at the end of life are extremely expensive, Orszag notes: skipping them could save Medicare a lot of money. 

  • Scientists to resume high-risk bird flu studies

    International scientists announced Wednesday that they will resume research on the deadly H5N1 bird flu after security fears prompted a yearlong moratorium.

    Research will proceed in several countries but not in the United States, which is still weighing measures to ensure the virus is safely guarded.

    The efforts halted in January 2012 after scientists at the University of Wisconsin and the Dutch Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, created strains of the virus that could, in theory, pass between humans. 

  • Dem bill would undo big lobbying win for drug maker Amgen

    Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) introduced a bill Wednesday to repeal a special deal that drug maker Amgen secured in the recent “fiscal cliff” deal.

    The New York Times reported over the weekend that Amgen had secured a deal to delay Medicare price controls over one of its drugs. The deal does not mention Amgen by name, but applies to a class of drugs that includes a profitable dialysis drug that Amgen manufactures.

    Amgen was the only company to lobby for the provision, the Times reported.

    Welch proposed repealing the deal, which he said will cost Medicare almost $500 million over the course of the two-year delay.

  • Washington state moving on pot legalization after Holder meeting

    Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) said his state will move forward with laws legalizing the recreational use of marijuana after a “very satisfying” meeting with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday.

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