Healthcare News June 5, 2012

  • OVERNIGHT HEALTH: House set to repeal device tax

    As the Supreme Court’s healthcare decision nears, congressional Republicans are still hammering away at President Obama’s healthcare law. The House is scheduled to vote this week on two partial repeal bills, including one to eliminate the law’s controversial tax on medical devices.

    It could be one of the more politically interesting repeal votes in a while, because there is bipartisan opposition to the tax. Lawmakers from states with a big industry presence — such as Indiana, Minnesota and Massachusetts — have criticized the proposal in the past. Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic Senate candidate in Massachusetts, has also called for its repeal.

    Similarly, Republicans have framed repealing the tax as a way to help small businesses, saying the policy would stifle innovation. Their bill would also repeal new restrictions on the use of health savings accounts.

    Democratic Rep. Robert Andrews (N.J.) criticized the vote as a “waste of time,” just weeks ahead of a Supreme Court decision that could invalidate the entire healthcare law.

  • Study: Caution needed in handling care for dual eligibles

    Policymakers must be cautious in formulating plans to streamline care for some low-income elderly and disabled patients, according to an analysis published in the journal Health Affairs.

    Estimates about savings from new plans and demonstration projects must also be approached with skepticism, the authors wrote.

    The report emphasized that “one size will not fit all” and that specific subgroups of dual eligibles — people enrolled in both Medicare and Medicaid — will need programs specifically designed for them.

  • Health groups press Congress for deadline on long-delayed FDA regulations

    A coalition of healthcare advocates said Monday that Congress should force the Obama administration to issue new regulations on medical devices.

    The Advancing Patient Safety Coalition urged lawmakers to address the issue as they work out the differences between the House and Senate versions of a must-pass Food and Drug Administration bill.

    Every five years, Congress must reauthorize user fees the FDA collects from drug and device companies. Lawmakers traditionally use the bills to make additional changes to FDA policy.

    The last reauthorization, passed in 2007, called for a “unique device identification” (UDI) system to better track devices and monitor potential safety risks. But regulations to implement the UDI have been stuck at the Office of Management and Budget for nearly a year.

  • More cancer drugs submitted for federal approval

    The number of cancer drugs submitted for U.S. approval is on the rise as researchers’ understanding of how to fight the condition grows.

    According to reports, 10 of 30 new drugs approved by federal regulators in 2011 were in the area of oncology, which deals with cancer. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to see similar figures this year.

    “There are a large number of drugs being developed in oncology,” Dr. Richard Pazdur, head of the FDA’s office of oncology products, told Reuters.

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