Finance Committee Invites Comments on Health Care Data Transparency

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden and Ranking Member Chuck Grassley are asking providers, patients, insurers, entrepreneurs, and other stakeholders for ideas on ways to improve the availability and utility of health care data, while protecting patient privacy. In particular, the Senators are requesting information on: the data sources that should be made more broadly available; the form such data should be conveyed; ways to reduce the unnecessary fragmentation of health care data; and reforms to overcome barriers that stand in the way of effective use of existing data sources. Comments will be accepted until August 12, 2014.

Congressional Hearings Examine Medicare Fraud, ACA, Digital Health, MedPAC Report, Brain Injuries

Recent Congressional hearings on health policy issues include the following:

Bipartisan Health Bills Advance

This week the House is scheduled to consider five bipartisan public health bills addressing traumatic brain injuries, newborns, trauma patients, and individuals with autism. Specifically, the House is expected to vote on the following:

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Full Energy and Commerce Committee Approves Three Bipartisan Health Bills

On June 10, 2014, the full House Energy and Commerce Committee approved by voice vote three bipartisan public health bills:

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HHS Secretary Nominee Burwell Confirmed by Senate

The Senate has confirmed Sylvia Mathews Burwell to be Secretary of Health and Human Services on a bipartisan vote of 78 to 17.  Secretary Burwell was sworn in on June 9, 2014.

House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee Approves Health Bills

On May 28, 2014 the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health approved by voice vote three bipartisan public health bills:

  • H.R. 4299, “Improving Regulatory Transparency for New Medical Therapies Act,” which is intended to improve the Drug Enforcement Agency scheduling process for new FDA-approved drugs under the Controlled Substances Act and the registration process for the use of controlled substances in clinical trials to allow treatments to get to patients in a more timely and predictable manner.
  • H.R. 4709, “Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act,” which would amend the Controlled Substances Act to clarify definitions, allow parties to submit a corrective action plan prior to revocation or suspension of a registration, and require a report identifying how collaboration between agencies and stakeholders can benefit patient access to medications and prevent diversion and abuse of controlled substances.
  • H.R. 4631, “Combating Autism Reauthorization Act of 2014,” which would continue autism-related federal research, early identification and intervention, education, and activities of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee.

Congressional Health Policy Hearings

A number of Congressional panels have focused on following health policy issues recently, including the following:

  • The House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee examined various Medicare hospital issues, including the CMS two-midnights policy, short inpatient stays, outpatient observation stays, Recovery Audit Contractor audits, and the appeals backlog.
  • The House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing on two bills that seek to equalize payments between different providers: (1) the Medicare Patient Access to Cancer Treatment Act of 2014, which would establish payment parity under the Medicare program for ambulatory cancer care services furnished in the hospital outpatient department and the physician office setting; and (2) the Bundling and Coordinating Post-Acute Care (BACPAC) Act of 2014, which would provide bundled payments for post-acute care services under Medicare Parts A and B.
  • The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held hearings entitled "Examining the Federal Response to Autism Spectrum Disorders" and "Medicare Mismanagement: Oversight of the Federal Government Effort to Recapture Misspent Funds."
  • The Senate Special Committee on Aging focused on the role of health care providers in advance care planning.
  • The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee examined the ACA minimum medical loss ratio (MLR) requirements, which requires health insurers to provide rebates to consumers if the plans do not spend sufficient proportion of premium dollars on medical care.
     

Finance Committee Endorses Burwell Nomination

On May 21, 2014 the Senate Finance Committee voted 21-3 to approve the nomination of Sylvia Mathews Burwell to be HHS Secretary. The full Senate still must vote to confirm the nomination.

House Panel to Consider Bundled Post-Acute Care, Cancer Care Payment Parity Bills

The House Energy and Commerce Committee has scheduled a May 21 hearing entitled “Keeping the Promise: Site of Service Medicare Payment Reforms,” which will focus on two bills that seek to equalize payments between different providers:

  • The Medicare Patient Access to Cancer Treatment Act of 2014, which would establish payment parity under the Medicare program for ambulatory cancer care services furnished in the hospital outpatient department and the physician office setting.
  • The Bundling and Coordinating Post-Acute Care (BACPAC) Act of 2014, which would provide bundled payments for post-acute care services under Medicare Parts A and B.

The Committee will examine whether such proposals can save money for beneficiaries and the Medicare program without compromising quality of care.

House Panel to Examine Medicare Hospital Issues (May 20)

On May 20, the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee is holding a hearing on current Medicare hospital issues, including the CMS two-midnights policy, short inpatient stays, outpatient observation stays, Recovery Audit Contractor audits, and the appeals backlog.

Senate Finance Committee Schedules Hearing on Burwell HHS Nomination

The Senate Finance Committee has scheduled a May 14, 2014 hearing to consider the nomination of Sylvia Burwell to be HHS Secretary.  This follows a May 8 Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on the nomination. 

Congressional Committees to Consider HHS Secretary Nomination, HHS Budget, ACA Implementation, Cancer Research

The Senate Appropriations Committee has scheduled a May 7, 2014 hearing to review the Administration’s FY 2015 budget request for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Also on May 7, the House Energy and Commerce Oversight Subcommittee will examine the status of health insurance enrollment under the ACA, and the Senate Aging Committee will focus on cancer research. On May 8, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee has scheduled a hearing on the nomination of Sylvia Burwell to be HHS Secretary.

Congressional Hearings this Week to Focus on Medicare Fraud, Telehealth

On Wednesday, April 30, 2014, the House Ways and Means Committee will focus on “Ideas to Improve Medicare Oversight to Reduce Waste, Fraud and Abuse." On May 1, the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee is holding a hearing on “Telehealth to Digital Medicine: How 21st Century Technology Can Benefit Patients."

April Congressional Hearings

Recent Congressional hearings on health policy issues include the following:

  • House Energy and Commerce Committee hearings on the “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act”; the FDA’s proposed changes to generic drug labeling; and legislation intended to improve predictability and transparency in Drug Enforcement Agency and FDA regulation (H.R. 4299, H.R. 4069, and H.R. 4250).
  • House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee hearing on final Treasury Department regulations implementing the employer mandate and employer information reporting requirement provisions of the ACA..

In addition, on April 9, 2014, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is holding a hearing on “Addressing Primary Care Access and Workforce Challenges: Voices from the Field.”

Children's Hospital GME Reauthorization Act Signed

On April 7, 2014, President Obama signed into law S. 1557, the Children’s Hospital Graduate Medical Education Support Reauthorization Act, which provides funding to children’s hospitals for their pediatric medical residency programs.

President Signs Medicare Physician Fee Schedule/SGR Patch with Numerous Health Policy Provisions

This post was written by Debra McCurdy, Paul Pitts, Gail Daubert, Thomas Greeson, Susan Edwards, and Katie Hurley.

On April 1, 2014, President Obama signed into law H.R. 4302, the “Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014” (“the Act”). The Act includes a one-year Medicare physician fee schedule fix that averts a nearly 24 percent payment cut set for April 1, 2014, but which falls far short of earlier hopes for full repeal of the current sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula. The Act also includes numerous other Medicare payment and policy changes, including skilled nursing facility value-based purchasing provisions, reforms to the physician fee schedule relative valuation process, a new framework for clinical laboratory payments, a variety of changes impacting imaging services, changes in the exceptions for long term care hospitals, and extension of certain expiring provisions. In other areas, the bill includes a one-year delay in the transition to ICD-10, changes to the timetable for Medicaid disproportionate share hospital cuts, and “front-loading” of the 2024 Medicare sequestration reduction.

For more information, read our summary of major provisions of the Act.

As End of 3-Month SGR Patch Approaches, Hope Fading for Permanent Fix This Month

The clock is winding down for Congress to pass Medicare sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula reform legislation before the latest temporary spending patch expires at the end of the month and doctors again face steep cut in Medicare physician fee schedule (MPFS) payments.  While there had been high hopes for a permanent reform once key committee leaders reached agreement on a bipartisan, bicameral SGR reform bill, financing the roughly $180 billion package (including funding for various expiring Medicare provisions) has been the sticking point. When the House of Representatives approved its version of the bill on March 14 (H.R. 4015), it relied on savings attributed to repeal of the ACA individual insurance mandate to finance the bill – a proposal which drew a veto threat from the Administration and which will not be considered by the Senate. On the other hand, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Wyden has suggested offsetting the costs by capturing savings from “overseas contingency operations” funds (future war spending that is not expected to be expended) or not offsetting the costs – neither of which would pass the House.  Given this impasse, lawmakers are exploring another temporary fix, potentially through the end of 2014, with offsets for the smaller package likely to come from reductions in other Medicare spending. If Congress does not reach an agreement, MPFS payments will be subject to an approximate 24% cut on April 1, 2014 (although CMS announced in the final MPFS rule the conversion factor would be reduced by 20.1%, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that given other adjustments in the rule, the effective update to physician payments for 2014 will be a reduction of 23.7% if the rule goes into effect).

March Congressional Health Policy Hearings

Congressional panels continue to hold hearings to address various health policy issues, including the following:

Obama Administration Proposes FY 2015 Budget with Medicare, Medicaid Savings Provisions

On March 4, 2014, the Obama Administration released its proposed federal budget for fiscal year (FY) 2015. Virtually all types of health care providers, health plans, and drug manufacturers would be impacted by the budget provisions if adopted as proposed – an unlikely scenario given the Republican House leadership’s reaction to the document. Nevertheless, the Medicare and Medicaid savings proposals (many of which are carry-overs from prior budgets) could resurface as spending offsets in the pending negotiations on Medicare physician fee schedule reform legislation or in future budget negotiations. Highlights of the Administration’s Medicare and Medicaid legislative proposals include the following (all savings estimates are for the 10-year period of FYs 2015-2024):

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Congressional Health Policy Hearings

 A number of Congressional committees have held hearings recently to address various health policy issues, including the following:

Older Entries

February 13, 2014 — Bipartisan/Bicameral SGR Reform Bill Released; Offsets Not Yet Identified

February 13, 2014 — House Panel, GAO Examine Drug Shortages

February 12, 2014 — Congress Approves 1-Year Extension of Medicare Sequestration

January 30, 2014 — Omnibus Government Spending Signed to Fund HHS, Other Departments

January 30, 2014 — Congressional Health Policy Hearings

January 29, 2014 — SGR Reform/IPAB Connection - Will Medicare Physician Fee Schedule Fix Trigger IPAB Provider Cuts?

January 6, 2014 — House Panel to Examine Medicare "Extenders" Policy

December 30, 2013 — President Signs 2-Year Funding Bill with Medicare SGR Patch, Sequestration Extension for Medicare Providers

December 10, 2013 — Drug Distribution Security Legislation Signed into Law

December 10, 2013 — Senate Finance Committee Schedules SGR Markup

December 10, 2013 — Congressional Hearings Examine ACA Insurance Developments and Other Health Policies

December 10, 2013 — HIV Organ Policy Equity, PREEMIE Reauthorization Acts Signed into Law

December 3, 2013 — House Approves "Keep Your Health Plan Act"

November 25, 2013 — Congressional Panels Continue Focus on ACA Insurance Enrollment, Security, and Cost Issues, and Other Health Policy Topics

November 14, 2013 — House Schedules Vote on "Keep Your Health Plan Act"

November 14, 2013 — CBO Offers Deficit Reduction Options

November 14, 2013 — Congressional Hearings Focus on HealthCare.gov Enrollment, Other Policy Issues

November 14, 2013 — Health Policy Bills Advance

November 5, 2013 — Key House and Senate Panels Invite Comments on SGR Reform Plan (Due Nov. 12)

October 30, 2013 — Congressional Hearings Focus on Rocky HealthCare.gov Rollout

October 30, 2013 — Continuing Resolution for FY 2014 Adopted; Budget Panel Could Take Up Medicare Issues

September 17, 2013 — House Approves Bill to Require Verification of ACA Individual Subsidy Eligibility

September 16, 2013 — Upcoming House Hearings on ACA Implementation (Sept. 18 & 19)

September 16, 2013 — Congressional Health Policy Hearings

August 12, 2013 — Ways and Means Committee Releases Draft Medicare Post-Acute Care Reform Legislation

August 6, 2013 — Bill Introduced to Narrow Stark Exception for In-Office Services

July 29, 2013 — House Approves Legislation to Amend ACA to Delay Insurance Mandates

July 29, 2013 — House Panel Approves Bipartisan SGR Reform Bill

July 29, 2013 — Ways and Means Committee Invites Public Comment on Medicare Cost Sharing Proposals

July 29, 2013 — July Health Policy Hearings

July 29, 2013 — HIV Organ Policy Equity Act Advances

July 3, 2013 — House Panel Invites Comments on Draft SGR Reform Legislation

June 27, 2013 — Congressional Committees Seek Input on Post-Acute Care Reforms

June 27, 2013 — Health Policy Hearings

June 11, 2013 — Health Policy Hearings

June 11, 2013 — House Approves ACA Repeal Legislation

June 5, 2013 — House Approves Drug Distribution Security Plan

June 5, 2013 — House SGR Reform Efforts Continue - Hearing Today

May 11, 2013 — Senate Finance Members Seek Physician Input on SGR Reform

May 10, 2013 — Congressional Health Policy Hearings & Markups

April 24, 2013 — Lawmakers Float Draft Drug Distribution Security Plan; Comment Opportunity

April 15, 2013 — April Congressional Health Policy Hearings & Markups

April 11, 2013 — Updated House SGR Reform Proposal

April 10, 2013 — Obama Administration's Proposed FY 2014 Budget Includes $401 Billion in Health Program Savings

March 28, 2013 — President Signs Government Funding Bill Maintaining FY 2013 Medicare Sequestration Cuts

March 28, 2013 — Congressional Health Policy Hearings

March 27, 2013 — Senate HELP Committee Approves Organ Transplant, Animal Drug User Fee Bills

March 13, 2013 — Congress Clears Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Reauthorization Act

March 12, 2013 — Congressional Hearings

March 4, 2013 — Medicare and Sequestration - What Happens Now?

February 18, 2013 — House Panels Invite Comments on Medicare SGR/Physician Fee Schedule Reform

February 18, 2013 — House Approves GME, Pediatric Research, and EMT Bills

February 18, 2013 — February Congressional Health Policy Hearings & Markups

February 18, 2013 — Finance Committee Compilation of Public Recommendations to Address Health Care Fraud and Abuse

February 11, 2013 — House Panel Hearing to Focus on Physician Payment/SGR Reform (Feb. 14)

January 30, 2013 — House Passes Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Reauthorization Act

January 30, 2013 — House Energy and Commerce Committee Approves GME, Pediatric Research, and EMT Bills

January 30, 2013 — Senate HELP Committee Hold Hearings on Mental Health, Primary Care

January 28, 2013 — Reed Smith Analysis of Changes to Medicare Secondary Payer (MSP) Law

January 11, 2013 — New Law Establishes IVIG Demonstration/Makes MSP Policy Revisions

January 4, 2013 — Fiscal Cliff Deal Includes Medicare Cuts and Other Health Policy Changes

December 17, 2012 — December Congressional Hearings and Markups

December 5, 2012 — House Panel Schedules Hearing on Implementation of ACA's Exchanges and Medicaid Expansion (Dec. 13)

November 29, 2012 — GAO Assesses CMS Fraud Prevention System Implementation

November 12, 2012 — November Congressional Health Policy Hearings

October 15, 2012 — Short-Term Government Funding, FDA User Fee & Safe Doses Bills Signed into Law

September 28, 2012 — Congress Clears Short-Term Government Funding Bill

September 27, 2012 — Generic Drug User Fee Fix Cleared by Congress

September 27, 2012 — Senate Approves Legislation to Combat Medical Product Theft

September 27, 2012 — House Approves "Taking Essential Steps for Testing (TEST) Act"

September 27, 2012 — House, Senate Committee Votes on Health Research Measures

September 27, 2012 — House Panel Approves Changes to Medicare Secondary Payer (MSP), Medical Loss Ratio Rules

September 27, 2012 — Congressional Health Policy Hearings

September 17, 2012 — Budget Sequestration ("Fiscal Cliff") to Cost Medicare Providers $11 Billion in FY 2013, White House Reports

September 11, 2012 — Aging Committee Hearing on Physician Payments Sunshine Act (Sept. 12)

September 5, 2012 — Congressional Hearings

August 29, 2012 — Jumping Off The 'Fiscal Cliff'? What Can Happen When Congress Returns?

July 31, 2012 — Congressional Health Policy Hearings

July 19, 2012 — House Votes to Repeal ACA

July 19, 2012 — July Congressional Hearings

July 19, 2012 — House Appropriations Panel Votes to Defund ACA, AHRQ

July 6, 2012 — Congressional Panels Schedule Hearings on ACA Issues (Tax Policy, Physician/Economic Impact)

June 28, 2012 — Supreme Court Upholds ACA Insurance Mandate, Limits Withholding of Medicaid Funds to States

June 28, 2012 — Congress Clears FDA Safety & Innovation Act

June 27, 2012 — House Approves Medical Product Counterfeiting Act

June 18, 2012 — House Panel Clears Legislation to Address Medical Product Theft, Counterfeiting

June 18, 2012 — June Congressional Health Policy Hearings

June 8, 2012 — House Approves ACA Device Tax Repeal Bill in Face of Veto Threat

May 31, 2012 — House, Senate Approve FDA User Fee/Drug Safety Bills

May 31, 2012 — House Panel Takes Up ACA Medical Device Tax Repeal, Other Health Tax Policy Bills

May 31, 2012 — Congressional Health Policy Hearings

May 25, 2012 — House Leaders Plan June Vote on ACA Medical Device Tax Repeal

May 14, 2012 — Finance Committee Members Seek Public Input on Medicare/Medicaid Fraud

May 14, 2012 — Congressional Health Policy Hearings

May 11, 2012 — House Approves Sequestration Replacement Plan with Health Provisions

May 11, 2012 — House Panel Unanimously Approves FDA User Fee Act

April 23, 2012 — Ways & Means Bill Would Recapture Additional ACA Subsidy Overpayments.

April 23, 2012 — April Congressional Health Policy Hearings and Markups

April 18, 2012 — New Hampshire Quietly Considers Prohibition Of Physician Relationships With Medical Device Companies

April 2, 2012 — House Approves GOP Budget with Medicare, Medicaid Provisions