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Congress

September 13, 2007 | Daily News

A bipartisan group of well-placed senators struck back at the Bush administration this week, introducing legislation that would prohibit CMS from implementing its controversial new directive that limits SCHIP eligibility to families earning 250 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL).

September 12, 2007 | Daily News

To cheers and applause from stakeholders, the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday unanimously approved legislation to expand Medicare, Medicaid and SCHIP services to Native Americans. The bill would provide about $52 million over the next five years for improved services and outreach, as well as the elimination of cost sharing, for patients eligible for care through CMS programs.

September 12, 2007 | Daily News

Industry sources say brand drug and biotech industry representatives are holding closed-door meetings with Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to hammer out additional changes to the Senate patent bill before it goes to conference. The sources say they still don't like a number of provisions in the bill, but the logjam is over how judges determine the awards given to a patent holder whose patent is infringed.

September 11, 2007 | Daily News

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair John Dingell (D-MI) is planning to formally introduce a food-safety bill by the end of the month, a committee spokesperson said. A hearing should follow shortly thereafter.

Dingell floated a massive import safety discussion draft before August recess. Its key provisions include a user fee on imported food and drugs, mandatory recall authority for FDA, a limitation on which cities could handle food imports, and a certification system for foreign manufacturers.

September 11, 2007 | Daily News

Unless there is "some breakthrough" in SCHIP negotiations before Congress adjourns Wednesday (Sept. 12) for Rosh Hashanah, lawmakers will be forced to fall back on a short-term extension of the popular children's health program, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) told reporters Tuesday afternoon. Faced with such a prospect, the physician lobby has stepped up its push for lawmakers to pass a longer-term SCHIP extension coupled with a multi-billion dollar Medicare payment relief provision ( see related story).

September 11, 2007 | Daily News

The nation's powerful seniors and physician lobbies have joined forces in a bid to break a stalemate between House and Senate lawmakers over whether to attach billions of dollars in Medicare physician payment relief to must-pass kids' health legislation. The groups are rallying support for physician payment relief as Senate lawmakers continue to balk at including the House relief plan in a conference agreement on the reauthorization of the popular State Children's Health Insurance Program.

September 06, 2007 | Daily News

Finance Committee leaders Wednesday (Sept. 5) admitted that an earlier press release had incorrectly labeled all six facilities involved in an Arizona television news station's recent probe into the improper usage of the 911 services as "specialty hospitals," when, in fact, only two fit that category.

September 06, 2007 | Daily News

Generic biologics probably will not be on the table when House and Senate lawmakers conference on their respective FDA bills, two leading House lawmakers said Thursday (Sept. 6).

Democratic Reps. Henry Waxman, of California, and Frank Pallone, of New Jersey, said there remains only a small chance that biogenerics legislation would be taken up in conference between the Senate-passed FDA Revitalization Act and a similar package of reforms passed by the House.

September 06, 2007 | Daily News

After meeting Thursday afternoon, House and Senate Democratic leaders remain at odds over how to hash out differences between the chambers' State Children's Health Insurance (SCHIP) renewal bills -- a chief stumbling block being millions of dollars of Medicare provider payment relief included in the House bill. Senate Finance Chair Max Baucus (MT), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (CA), House Ways & Means Chair Charlie Rangel (NY) and Energy & Commerce Chair John Dingell (MI) attended the discussion which lasted a little more than an hour.

September 05, 2007 | Daily News

Lawmakers will not have enough time to reconcile differences between the House and Senate SCHIP bills before the program expires Sept. 30, probably forcing a temporary extension of the popular children's health program at current levels of spending and leaving the future vehicle of the House physician payment plan unclear, according to several lawmakers and a number of well-placed health policy observers. Senate Republican are trying to convince their Democratic colleagues to oppose $40 billion in non-SCHIP-related House Medicare provisions -- including a $20 billion physician payment fix.

September 05, 2007 | Daily News

The surprise announcement by the White House Tuesday (Sept. 4) that it would designate Kerry Weems as acting administrator of CMS comes in response to lukewarm support of the nomination by senators, even some on the GOP side, as his Senate confirmation as permanent chief drags on. Weems also apparently had difficulty satisfying Senators about his willingness to work with them on a number of controversial issues, according to Finance Committee documents obtained by Inside CMS.

September 04, 2007 | Daily News

A new Congressional Research Service (CRS) report may help lawmakers, who are set to begin debate on vastly different proposals to reauthorize the federal children's health insurance program, compare and contrast the competing Senate and House proposals.

An Aug. 15 CRS side-by-side comparison of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) reauthorization proposals facing congressional conferees provides a quick recap of the spending differences:

August 31, 2007 | Daily News

In only nine states, Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) cover less than 95 percent of kids living below 200 percent of poverty, according to preliminary -- and highly controversial -- CMS estimates geared at refuting agency critics who predict that new SCHIP policies announced Aug. 17 will prompt higher-income kids to lose coverage.

August 30, 2007 | Daily News

As the debate over user fees and imported food intensifies, a key consumer group appears to be softening its opposition to user fees in its bid to get food safety legislation passed.

"We're looking at this thing from a practical standpoint at this point," said Tony Corbo, of Food and Water Watch.

August 30, 2007 | Daily News

One of the nation's largest advocates for kidney patients is expressing concerns over a provision of the recently passed House Medicare/SCHIP bill that would extend private coverage responsibilities, in lieu of Medicare, for 12 months for certain end stage renal disease (ESRD) patients. While several kidney groups have accepted the change as a necessary offset for other ESRD-related provisions in the bill, the American Association of Kidney Patients (AAKP) says the life expectancy of ESRD sufferers is such that many would never see the Medicare benefits.

August 30, 2007 | Daily News

A provision of recently passed House legislation that seeks to maintain specific hemoglobin levels in Medicare end-stage renal disease (ESRD) patients is drawing fire from some nephrologists who contend the benchmark is set too high, encouraging the overuse of the anemia-management drug Epogen (EPO) and placing beneficiaries at risk. But a congressional source defended the proposal, contending it would act as a counterweight to ESRD bundling language--also found in the bill -- that might encourage providers to underuse the drugs, also to the potential detriment of patients.

August 27, 2007 | Daily News

Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT) has joined Senate lawmakers calling for a ban on Chinese imports and for increased FDA oversight. In an Aug. 17 letter to President Bush, Dodd asks Bush to temporarily suspend food, toy and pet food imports from China until the U.S. government can ensure an adequate inspection process.

August 27, 2007 | Daily News

House lawmakers are urging FDA to reconsider the "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS) designation for diacetyl, a butter flavoring chemical thought to be responsible for respiratory illness among microwave popcorn workers. The request, included in FDA appropriations report language, comes as legislation is moving through the chamber that would require the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to set a workplace exposure standard.

August 24, 2007 | Daily News

In addition to a thorough lobbying effort to derail import safety legislation, food companies and importers are planning a package of voluntary measures they hope will blunt the momentum for congressional action. And as industry searches for some common ground with food safety hawks in Congress, its opposition to mandatory FDA recall authority might be softening.

August 24, 2007 | Daily News

Food manufacturers and importers hope to cast a sweeping import safety bill not only as infeasible, but also as a potential threat to national security and thousands of U.S. jobs, industry sources told FDA Week. That approach will be one of many fronts in an aggressive, coordinated effort to push back against legislation that would make food companies pay for FDA inspections.

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