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Congress

March 28, 2007 | Daily News

Three Republicans on the Senate health committee have drafted an alternative to the leading Senate drug safety bill. The alternative bill meets FDA's preference for using electronic prescription and health data to monitor drugs once they are on the market, sources say, instead of giving the agency a host of new authorities.

March 28, 2007 | Daily News

Boosting Medicare reimbursement and expanding treatment options for beneficiaries who suffer from mental illness will not significantly increase taxpayer costs, but will eliminate an institutional discrimination against diseases of the mind, while possibly reducing associated health care costs born by the economy as a whole, mental health professionals told Congress Tuesday.

March 27, 2007 | Daily News

Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America President Billy Tauzin warned Tuesday (March 27) that industry opposes the central provision in the Senate's leading drug safety bill, and is loathe to pay user fees to support the risk evaluation and mitigation strategy measure. Lawmakers are considering attaching the drug safety bill to this year's reauthorization of drug user fee law.

March 27, 2007 | Daily News

Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT) says he will stick to his own legislative proposal tweaking market protections in pediatric exclusivity legislation and not include proposals offered by colleagues to either shorten or lengthen exclusivity periods.

March 23, 2007 | Daily News

FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach did not have an easy time Thursday (March 22) before the House Energy and Commerce Committee oversight panel. He took heat for comments he made that were perceived as threatening toward whistleblowers, for bringing written testimony that contradicted what committee members have learned from their own investigations, and for blowing off a 23-page report on Accutane -- a personal crusade of the oversight panel's chair.

March 22, 2007 | Daily News

Democratic lawmakers are probing the administration for data on how many Medicare Advantage patients have availed themselves of the extra benefits that these Part C plans provide, data they hope will help them determine how much to cut back federal overpayments to these plans.

As Congress faces tough budget decisions, House Ways & Means health subcommittee Chair Pete Stark (D-CA) said at a hearing Wednesday that doctors, hospitals, post-acute care, drug plan payments and "Medicare Advantage payments, too" are all "on the table."

March 22, 2007 | Daily News

House Oversight and Government Reform Chair Henry Waxman (D-CA) will hold a hearing Monday (March 26) on biogenerics.

A witness list had not been released.

Waxman is the lead House sponsor of legislation that would create an approval pathway for generic versions of biologic drugs. He is joined in the Senate by New York Democrats Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer.

March 22, 2007 | Daily News

The Senate Wednesday (March 21) tacked to its 2008 budget resolution an additional $15 billion toward reauthorization of the State Children's Health Insurance Program, hiking the total on-budget tally for SCHIP to $30 billion over the next five years.

The popular state-federal partnership is due to expire Sept. 30, but Democratic leaders have vowed to renew it with no fewer than $50 billion -- all of which must be offset according to pay-go rules.

March 22, 2007 | Daily News

Three key House committees are launching probes into FDA, CMS and industry's handling of new safety concerns with widely prescribed anti-anemia drugs. Ways & Means health subcommittee chair Pete Stark (D-MA) vowed Tuesday to closely monitor CMS' review of its policies on Epoetin (EPO). Energy & Commerce Chair John Dingell (D-MI) a day later launched his own probe into FDA and industry's handling of EPO safety issues, and demanded EPO makers cease consumer advertising. Plus, Oversight & Government Reform Chair Henry Waxman (D-CA) is planning his own hearing, a key source says.

March 21, 2007 | Daily News

Congress will not intervene to empower CMS with access to IRS records in order to catch Medicare providers who are simultaneously tax cheats, Senate lawmakers said Tuesday (March 20), rebuffing a request by CMS' top bureaucrat. Instead, lawmakers are demanding that CMS step up its cooperation with other federal agencies in efforts to "match" Medicare providers with tax evaders for the purpose of recovering debt.

March 21, 2007 | Daily News

House appropriators last week dropped an earlier plan to dip into hospital emergency care spending to partially offset $750 million tucked into the emergency spending measure to prevent 14 states from running out of federal SCHIP funds this fiscal year. Democratic leaders had initially indicated the SCHIP provision alone would be partially offset -- primarily by rescinding unspent funds allocated to hospitals for emergency care to undocumented immigrants -- but changed tacks at the last minute and scrapped their offset plan altogether.

March 21, 2007 | Daily News

A Texas-based hospital that has been the focal point of a congressional probe into CMS' handling of specialty hospitals announced March 21 it will no longer provide acute care services effective March 30, after a second CMS inspection uncovered new violations at the facility. The statement by Abilene-based West Texas Hospital, which has been under investigation for a patient death, came just days after CMS decided to terminate the physician-owned facility's Medicare certification.

March 20, 2007 | Daily News

The Medicare Advantage (MA) program has improved minority health and increased benefit options in rural America, the insurance lobby argues as it gears up for a Wednesday (March 21) House hearing at which Democrats are expected to intensify a push for MA payment cuts. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates the government could save $64.8 billion over five years if MA payment rates were the same as under traditional Medicare.

March 20, 2007 | Daily News

A prominent drug safety witness courted by Republicans plans to offer a middle-ground approach to improve FDA's post-market decision making process that would not go as far as some who want an independent drug safety office, but would put investigating drug safety emergencies in the hands of an independent agency.

March 19, 2007 | Daily News

House lawmakers are pressuring HHS and Louisiana officials to resume negotiations on how to restructure the state's health care system following problems resulting from Hurricane Katrina. Talks stalled earlier this year after HHS asked the state to use existing disproportionate share hospital (DSH) funds to subsidize health coverage for the uninsured.

March 16, 2007 | Daily News

GOP efforts to install income-related Part D premiums into next year's budget resolution were shot down Thursday by the Democratic-led Senate Budget Committee. But the issue is far from dead, as the sponsor of the amendment said afterwards that Republicans will likely try again on the Senate floor as full debate on the spending measure begins next week -- perhaps as early as Tuesday -- and the Democratic Budget chairman has already vowed to support it if they do.

"I would vote for it," Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) said shortly after he voted against it in committee.

March 16, 2007 | Daily News

Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), a member of the powerful Finance Committee, on Thursday (March 15) introduced legislation that would ax the controversial Medicaid "proof-of citizenship" requirement included in the Deficit Reduction Act by repealing federal authority over the matter and instead granting states the ability to determine measures of citizenship verification.

Democratic Sens. John Kerry (MA), Hillary Clinton (NY) and Daniel Akaka (HI) cosponsored the measure, which Bingaman is hoping will receive more than just a passing glance, an aide said.

March 16, 2007 | Daily News

Legislation that would allow IRS, CMS and the Social Security Administration to share limited data, nearly double the asset level used to qualify beneficiaries for Part D's Low-Income Subsidy (LIS) and erase the late-penalty fee in order to enroll more seniors in the program was rolled out Thursday (March 15) to accolades from several key advocacy groups for the aging.

March 15, 2007 | Daily News

Senate Budget Committee Chair Kent Conrad (D-ND) Wednesday (March 14) unveiled his five-year spending wish list that includes an unspecified Medicare physician fee fix, $50 billion to reauthorize SCHIP, the creation of a comparative effectiveness fund, vast increases in efforts to combat Medicaid fraud, and a host of additional CMS proposals -- all part of a package he says will balance the budget by 2012 without raising taxes.

March 14, 2007 | Daily News

Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-MT) vowed Wednesday (March 14) to identify and pursue reforms that would put the country on a path toward universal coverage even before the 2008 presidential elections. Finance lawmakers mulled some ideas for immediate reforms at the first of a series of hearings aimed at framing the universal coverage debate.

Ranking Republican Charles Grassley (IA) noted that health reforms would be difficult -- but possible -- to pass during the campaign season. "We have enough on the table" to move forward now, he said.

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