- OVERNIGHT HEALTH: HHS moving quickly on key regulations
The new waiting game in healthcare isn’t about the political future of the Affordable Care Act, but rather the huge amount of work that still has to be done to implement it. As expected, the Health and Human Services Department is moving ahead quickly on several key regulations that had been held until after the election.
Since Election Day, HHS has submitted regulations to the Office of Management and Budget on essential health benefits, insurance regulations, wellness programs and quality initiatives.
Essential benefits — the 10 categories of procedures that health plans will have to cover — will be one of the most highly anticipated rules of the entire implementation process, with major implications for states as well as the insurance industry. HHS doesn’t appear to have sent over a rule yet on the federal exchange, another big-ticket item for states as well as industry stakeholders.
With the healthcare law’s political future now assured, the focus over the next few months will be on the states and the rule-making process, and all signs indicate that a new flood of regulations is about to begin.
Doc fix, again: With the end of the year fast approaching, it’s time once again for Congress to deal with the dreaded “doc fix.” Doctors will see a 27.5 percent cut in their Medicare payments unless Congress comes up with a plan to eliminate or, more realistically, postpone the cut. AARP, the powerful seniors’ lobby, weighed in last week with a letter urging Congress to permanently repeal Medicare’s sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula. Congress should pay for repeal with savings from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, AARP said.
“We urge you to pass the longest possible SGR fix this year, in order to allow for the development of a long-term and sustainable solution. New payment methods are needed that maintain access and encourage the delivery of high-quality care,” AARP said.
- Global agreement reached on cigarette smuggling
A broad coalition of states agreed Monday to fight cigarette smuggling by requiring manufacturers to be licensed and tobacco products to be trackable.
The agreement came after more than five years of negotiations between parties to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
It will not apply to the United States, however, because U.S. officials have not ratified the larger framework.
- Nursing homes to Congress: Stop looming Medicare cuts
Nursing homes are welcoming Congress back with a campaign against the sequester’s looming cuts to Medicare.
The American Health Care Association (AHCA) will run ads against the cuts in Beltway publications and on major cable networks starting Monday. The group made a similar ad buy in September as Congress prepared to recess.
“The end of the year marks the end of the line for sequestration. Something must be done to address these deep cuts to Medicare,” said Mark Parkinson, AHCA president and CEO, in a statement.
- House to defy ozone treaty, allow sale of asthma inhalers
The House is looking to pass legislation this week that would legalize the sale of 1 million asthma inhalers, which were banned from drugstore shelves this year in order to comply with an international air quality treaty.
Republicans are expected to call up H.R. 6190, the Asthma Inhalers Relief Act, on Tuesday. The bill would allow the sale of about 1 million remaining Primatene Mist inhalers, despite a ban on the sale of this product since the end of 2011.
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