On September 20, 2012, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved by voice vote H.R. 1063, the Strengthening Medicare and Repaying Taxpayers (SMART) Act. The legislation would make a series of procedural changes to MSP rules intended to “speed up the process of returning money to the Medicare Trust Fund while reducing costly legal barriers for both large and small employers.” The panel also approved on a 16-14 vote H.R. 1206, the Access to Professional Health Insurance Advisors Act. The legislation would amend the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) health insurance medical loss ratio (MLR) rules to exclude from the calculation of the MLR certain commissions paid to independent insurance brokers and agents. H.R. 1206 also would require HHS to defer to a state's determinations as to whether enforcing the MLR requirement will destabilize their respective individual or small group health insurance markets. Neither bill has been considered by the full House to date.
On July 28, 2010, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved a variety of health policy bills, including the following: H.R. 903, the “Dental Emergency Responder Act of 2010” (amended); H.R. 1745, the “Family Health Care Accessibility Act of 2010” (amended); H.R. 2923, the “Combat Methamphetamine Enhancement Act of 2010”, H.R. 3199, the “Emergency Medic Transition Act of 2010” (amended); H.R. 3470, the “Nationally Enhancing the Wellbeing of Babies through Outreach and Research Now Act of 2010” (amended); H.R. 5710, the “National All Schedules Prescription Electronic Reporting Reauthorization Act of 2010” (amended); H.R. 5756, the “Training and Research for Autism Improvement Nationwide Act of 2010” (amended); and H.R. 5809, the “Safe Drug Disposal Act of 2010” (amended). The legislation now awaits action by the full House.
The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved S. 369, the Preserve Access to Affordable Generics Act, which generally would prohibit brand name drug companies from compensating generic drug companies to delay the entry of a generic drug into the market. As approved by the Committee, the bill would allow certain settlement agreements between drug companies if they enhance competition, and it would establish penalties for violations of the act.
The House Judiciary Committee has passed H.R. 3596, the Health Insurance Industry Antitrust Enforcement Act of 2009. H.R. 3596 would prohibit companies that provide health and medical malpractice insurance from price fixing, bid rigging, or allocating markets while providing coverage for health insurance or medical malpractice claims. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the legislation would have no significant effect on the premiums that private insurers would charge for health insurance, in part because state laws already bar the activities that would be banned under federal law.
On October 21, 2009, the House Commerce Committee approved H.R. 3276, the American Medical Isotopes Production Act. The legislation is intended to provide the Department of Energy with new authority and funding to assist private sector projects to establish a steady domestic supply of the medical isotope molybdenum-99.
On August 4, 2009, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved an amended version of H.R. 3293, legislation to fund the Departments of Labor, HHS, and Education for FY 2010, which begins October 1, 2009. The bill, which was cleared by the full House on July 24, 2009, now awaits consideration by the full Senate.
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has approved S. 372, the "Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2009." Among other things, the Committee-approved bill would: clarify that federal employees are protected for disclosure of waste, fraud, or abuse made as part of an employee's job duties; clarify that whistleblowers may disclose evidence of censorship of scientific or technical information under the same standards that apply to other disclosures; and create a “Whistleblower Ombudsman” in every Inspector General office. The panel also approved S.1508, the "Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act,” which would strengthen requirements for federal agencies to report and correct overpayment errors. The bills now await consideration by the full Senate.
On July 15, 2009, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) approved its health reform plan, the “Affordable Health Choices Act,” on a party-line 13-to-10 vote. The major features of the legislation are summarized in a previous posting. Note that the HELP Committee does not have jurisdiction over Medicare or Medicaid; provisions impacting those programs will be included in the Senate Finance Committee health reform bill. A group of Finance Committee members are still meeting to agree on a bipartisan bill, but panel members are no longer predicting when the details of a compromise package may be released. After Finance Committee action, the two Committee packages then will be combined for consideration by the full Senate, likely sometime in the fall.
Sept. 2, 2009 update: The HELP Committee has finally released the version of the health reform bill adopted by the panel on July 15, 2009.
As previously reported, on June 17, 2009, the chairmen of the three House committees that share jurisdiction over health policy released a “discussion draft” of their comprehensive health reform plan. A revised version of the bill, the America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 (H.R. 3200), was unveiled on July 14, 2009. In short, the legislation would: create a public health insurance plan to compete with private insurers; expand access to insurance include low-income subsidies, creation of a health insurance exchange, Medicaid expansion, and private insurance market reforms; impose mandates for individuals to purchase insurance and employers to contribute to health care costs (with certain exceptions); and make extensive Medicare and Medicaid policy changes affecting virtually every type of health care entity. On July 17, 2009, the Ways and Means Committee approved H.R. 3200, followed the same day by House Education and Labor Committee approval of an amended version of the legislation. The third House committee with jurisdiction -- Energy and Commerce -- began consideration of the legislation on July 17. Energy and Commerce Committee markup has been suspended, however, while Chairman Henry Waxman negotiates with more conservative Democratic members of the panel concerned with the costs of the bill and other features of the legislation, such as regional disparities in payment levels. Eventually the work of the three committees will be melded into one bill for a House vote, followed by reconciliation with the Senate package later in the year.
On July 15, 2009, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) approved its health reform plan, the “Affordable Health Choices Act,” on a party-line 13-to-10 vote. In addition to significant insurance reforms, including a public health plan option, the legislation addresses a variety of other health policy issues, such as health care quality, health care workforce issues, preventive care, chronic care management, and a regulatory approval process for follow-on biologicals. The major features of the legislation are outlined below.Continue Reading...
On March 5, 2006, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved an amended version of S.386, the "Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act." Among other things, the bill would “clarify” that the False Claims Act was intended to extend to any false or fraudulent claim for government money or property, whether or not the claim is presented to a government official or employee, whether or not the government has physical custody of the money, and whether or not the defendant specifically intended to defraud the government.
On March 4, 2009, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved the following health policy bills: H.R. 1256: Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act; H.R. 1259, the Dextromethorphan Distribution Act of 2009; H.R. 1246, the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Act of 2009; H.R. 1253, the Health Insurance Restrictions and Limitations Clarification Act of 2009; H.R. 20, the Melanie Blocker Stokes Mom's Opportunity to Access Health Education, Research, and Support for Postpartum Depression Act; H.R. 479, the Wakefield Act (addressing emergency medical services for children); H.R. 577, the Vision Care for Kids Act of 2009; H.R. 756, the National Pain Care Policy Act of 2009; H.R. 914, the Physician Workforce Enhancement Act of 2009; and H.R. 307, the Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Act. The legislation now moves to the full House for further consideration.
On September 10, 2008, the Senate Finance Committee approved an amended version of S. 1070, the “Elder Justice Act of 2008.” The legislation includes a number of provisions aimed at protecting residents of nursing facilities, including a requirement that crimes occurring in federally-funded long-term care facilities be reported to law enforcement agencies; increased funding for training of long-term care ombudsmen and surveyors investigating allegations of abuse, neglect, and misappropriation of property in long-term care facilities; notification and planning requirements in the event of an impending nursing facility closure; and incentives for individuals to train for employment as direct care providers in long-term care facilities. The panel also approved an amended version of S. 1577, the “Patient Safety and Abuse Prevention Act of 2008,” which would, among other things, expand requirements for background checks employees of long-term care facilities with direct patient access. Separately, on September 11, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved S. 2838, the "Fairness in Nursing Home Arbitration Act"; which would render unenforceable pre-dispute arbitration agreements between long-term care facilities and residents. The House Judiciary Committee approved its version of the measure, H.R. 6126, on July 30, 2008
On June 26, 2008, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its version of the fiscal year 2009 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies appropriations bill. Among other things, the bill would: increase National Institutes of Health spending by $1.025 billion; increase Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funding by $76 billion; increase funding for health centers, autism programs, and nursing education programs; provide more than $38 million for colorectal cancer prevention efforts; and allocate $507 million to prepare for and respond to an influenza pandemic. The bill also includes $198 million for Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control activities. More information is available here.