Healthcare News May 8, 2012

  • OVERNIGHT HEALTH: Smooth sailing — so far — for FDA bill

    Congress is on track to pass an important healthcare bill quickly, easily and with bipartisan support in both chambers.

    Yes, really.

    The bill in question would reauthorize user fees that the Food and Drug Administration collects from the drug and medical device industries. Congress has to reauthorize the fees every five years, and the must-pass the bill often becomes a vehicle for other FDA legislation.

    But, at least so far, this year’s negotiations have been remarkably smooth. The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health panel is meeting Tuesday to mark up the FDA bill, with a full committee markup scheduled just two days later. A companion bill is already awaiting floor debate in the Senate.

  • Congress is moving quickly on FDA bill

    The bill is considered a must-pass and, so far, negotiators have been able to avert any major controversies.

  • Study: Market-driven plans could lower healthcare costs

    The wide adoption of market-based healthcare plans like health savings accounts (HSAs) could significantly lower U.S. healthcare costs in the short run, according to a new study from RAND Corp.

    The question remains whether the plans’ cutbacks in care would lead to poorer health and higher costs later, study authors said.

    The RAND study was the most comprehensive to date looking at consumer-directed health plans, which account for about 13 percent of all healthcare coverage provided by employers.

    The study concluded that if the plans’ market share rose to 50 percent, healthcare costs in the United States could drop by $57 billion annually.

  • Senators: DEA might be making drug shortages worse

    Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) are asking federal investigators to probe policies at the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) that could be contributing to shortages of critical drugs.

    In a letter to the Government Accountability Office, Grassley and Whitehouse asked to “better understand any impediments to production or distribution” of drugs regulated by the Controlled Substances Act.

    The DEA enforces the measure by limiting the manufacture of certain medications. Grassley is ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which governs the issue.

    The letter described a concern that DEA policies “may impede the ability of physicians and healthcare providers to mitigate” drug shortages, especially in emergency situations.

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