Healthcare News May 21, 2013

  • Snowe: President thought opposition to health law would eventually fade away

    Obama assured former Sen. Snowe that GOP opposition to the law would be short-lived.

  • OVERNIGHT HEALTH: House panel probes ObamaCare outreach

    A top implementation official from the Health and Human Services (HHS) Department is headed to Capitol Hill on Tuesday for a hearing on the department’s outreach efforts. Gary Cohen, director of the office that’s handling most of the work implementing President Obama’s healthcare law, is scheduled to testify at a hearing about “the administration’s outreach campaign to … enroll individuals in exchanges and Medicaid.” 

    So it’s a pretty safe bet Cohen will face some questions about the fundraising requests HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has made on behalf of Enroll America — a nonprofit group promoting the reform law and encouraging people to enroll in its new coverage options.

    The official hearing materials emphasize “navigators” — people who will help explain coverage options in the new insurance exchanges, similar to traditional agents and brokers. Republicans have plenty of questions about the navigators program, given the scope of federal funding that will be available.

    The hearing, held jointly by two subcommittees of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, begins at 10 a.m.

    Dems fight back on premiums: Democrats and their allies pushed back Monday against charges that the Affordable Care Act will raise insurance premiums — especially for young people. Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee highlighted initial state rate filings, some of which show big drops in the cost of certain plans next year. Healthwatch has more details on the initial filings and how Democrats discussed them Monday.

    Meanwhile: The liberal Center for American Progress said in a new report that only about 3 percent of people between 19 and 29 will see their premiums go up. CAP mostly cited the law’s subsidies to help people buy insurance, and also noted that most insured young people have coverage through their employers. The think tank also argued that focusing solely on the cost of premiums misses the point, because the law provides new benefits and coverage options. Read the study here and the Healthwatch story here.

    SCOTUS rules in vaccine case: Patients who file lawsuits over vaccines can ask the government to cover their legal fees even if their lawsuits don’t advance, the Supreme Court said Monday. There are special courts for claims of injury caused by vaccines, and people who think they’ve been injured must file their lawsuits within 36 months of seeing their first symptoms. But even if a claim is filed too late, the patient can still petition the government for attorneys’ fees, the court said in a unanimous decision. The ruling is available here.

    Sebelius in Geneva: Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is in Geneva at the World Health Assembly and spoke about the Affordable Care Act as a major step forward for universal health coverage. She encouraged intergovernmental organizations to promote that goal with members, and touted the Americas’ commitment to address noncommunicable and vaccine-preventable disease. Read from the speech here and Healthwatch’s write-up here.

    Backlash from victims: Asbestos victims and survivors are up in arms about the House Judiciary Committee’s decision to fast-track a bill opponents say threatens patient privacy and delays compensation for medical bills. The Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act, sponsored by Reps. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) and Jim Matheson (D-Utah), will see a markup and full committee vote Tuesday without victim testimony in a subcommittee hearing.

    The bill is designed to crack down on abuses and improper payments in asbestos bankruptcy trusts, but the Asbestos Cancer Victims Rights Campaign says the measure will strip victims of their privacy by requiring personally identifiable information to be posted on a public website. The markup is scheduled for 10 a.m.

    PBM satisfaction: The Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, which represents pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), touted a new survey finding overwhelming satisfaction among seniors in preferred pharmacy networks. Four in five would be disappointed if their preferred network plan is eliminated, the survey found. Read the results here.

    Tuesday’s agenda

    The House Ways and Means subcommittee on Health will hold a hearing on Medicare reform proposals, including President Obama’s proposed 2014 budget.

    The House Judiciary Committee will mark up the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act of 2013.

    WomenAgainstAlzheimer’s will hold its annual summit. A breakfast event will include remarks from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Rep. Ann McLane Kuster (D-N.H.).

    Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will deliver remarks at the World Health Assembly in Geneva.


    State by state

    Vermont passes law allowing doctor-assisted suicide

    La. Senate panel kills Medicaid expansion measure

    Ore. may be the White House’s favorite health exchange

    The Medicaid expansion by the numbers


    Reading list

    GOP fears about IRS’s access to medical records disputed

    Some could have gaps in medical coverage under new law

    Supreme Court agrees to hear Medtronic patent case

    Should the world invest more in men’s health?

    What you might have missed on Healthwatch

    Week ahead: House GOP takes up nationwide late-term abortion ban

    Dems look to crack down on anti-abortion ‘crisis pregnancy centers’

    ERs gaining power in U.S. healthcare, study finds

    Comments / complaints / suggestions?

    Please let us know:

    Sam Baker: sbaker@thehill.com / 202-628-8351

    Elise Viebeck: eviebeck@thehill.com / 202-628-8523

    Follow us on Twitter @hillhealthwatch

  • Dems: Early data show premiums falling under Obama health law

    Early filings show that insurers in some states are planning to lower their premiums after President Obama’s healthcare law takes effect, Democrats noted on Monday.

    Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee cited the initial rate filings to argue that the health law’s Republican critics have oversold the potential effect on premiums.

    Early filings in five states have shown that premiums will likely stay the same, or even fall, once the health law is fully in place. But those filings come only from states where insurance is already heavily regulated — data are not yet available in states where bigger increases are more likely.

  • Sebelius touts ObamaCare in Europe

    Sebelius’s speech at the World Health Assembly comes as she faces GOP criticism over fundraising for Enroll America.

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