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Congress

February 02, 2007 | Daily News

Some of the nation's top financial experts told lawmakers this week that, while the fiscal crisis facing Medicare will be much tougher to address than that facing Social Security, there are a number of Medicare reforms Congress can enact to soften the entitlement's long-term budget impacts -- including cuts to Medicare Advantage plans, installation of income-weighted cost-sharing provisions and a full repeal of Part D in favor of a limited benefit.

February 02, 2007 | Daily News

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) reintroduced legislation banning "authorized generics" during the 180-day exclusivity period awarded to the first generic drug manufacturer that successfully challenges a brand patent. The bill's introduction Jan. 30 drew quick praise from generic drug makers and consumer advocates, and criticism from brand-name drug makers.

February 02, 2007 | Daily News

If Senate Finance Chair Max Baucus (D-MT) moves forward with efforts to reduce confusion in the Medicare Drug benefit program, he may have a fast friend in first-term Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

February 02, 2007 | Daily News

Senators are already drafting legislation that could fulfill two of the top recommendations outlined by patient advocates Wednesday (Jan. 31) during a two-hour U.S. Special Committee on Aging hearing on whether the Medicare Part D low-income subsidies (LIS) program is working for eligible seniors.

February 01, 2007 | Daily News

The House Wednesday (Jan. 31) passed a fiscal 2007 spending measure that grants FDA a $76 million budget increase over fiscal 2006 levels to cover the cost of pay increases, prevents the agency from laying off employees, and helps FDA keep up with general costs and workload. Adding industry user fees brings the total increase to $127 million.

The move is good news for FDA, as the continuing resolution would simply extend fiscal 2006 spending levels through the end of this fiscal year for many other agencies.

February 01, 2007 | Daily News

A powerful House panel hopes to force FDA to finally take a stand on biogenerics, demanding the agency first explain why it doesn't believe it has the authority to approve generic biologics and then draft a legislative proposal allowing for such approvals.

The Jan. 29 request is part of a larger probe launched by the House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair John Dingell (D-MI) and investigations subcommittee chair Bart Stupak (D-MI) into FDA's generic drug approval policies.

February 01, 2007 | Daily News

Senate health committee leaders Thursday (Feb. 1) reintroduced drug safety legislation with what drug lobbyists describe as only technical changes to last year's version, even though industry lobbied for changes that would make it more difficult for FDA to fine companies for shirking post-market commitments.

February 01, 2007 | Daily News

In the wake of the year's first congressional hearing on the state children's health insurance program (SCHIP), Sen. Finance Chair Max Baucus (D-MT) intends to work quickly on legislation to prevent SCHIP shortfalls expected to hit a number of states beginning in May, a Finance spokesperson said Thursday. It remains unclear if Baucus will address the shortfall issue separately from the larger issue of reauthorization for 2008 and beyond.

January 30, 2007 | Daily News

President Bush's soon-to-be-unveiled 2008 budget proposal for Medicare, expected to slash about $75 billion from Medicare and Medicaid, likely will include provisions that would require states to do more to garner full State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) federal funding and cut Part A and Part B reimbursements for drugs and services, according to various health care lobbyists and congressional staffers.

January 29, 2007 | Daily News

One day after the president proposed tax cuts and state experimentation as a way to expand coverage to America's uninsured, a group of patient, nurse, and physician advocates joined Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) at the National Press Club Jan. 24 to denounce that plan and announce the reintroduction of a national health care proposal that would take the nation's health care out of the hands of for-profit insurance companies for good.

January 29, 2007 | Daily News

The pharmacy benefit management company Express Scripts last week began circulating among lawmakers a study on the financial impact of permitting FDA to approve biogenerics that says American consumers could save $71 billion over 10 years if generic versions of treatments for four diseases or conditions were on the market.

January 26, 2007 | Daily News

The House this week passed by unanimous consent a bill requiring the Department of Homeland Security to hire more employees to review liability protection applications for counterterrorism products.

January 26, 2007 | Daily News

To a largely friendly crowd of advocates for poor patients and children this Friday morning, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) suggested there is no "higher domestic priority" than reauthorizing and expanding the state children's health insurance program (SCHIP), which will be taken up Feb. 1 by the Senate Finance Committee.

In what one radio reporter referred to as a "rousing" speech, Kennedy also suggested that there is an intrinsic link between raising the minimum wage and improving the health status of the 9 million uninsured children in America.

January 25, 2007 | Daily News

A panel of health care experts assembled by the Urban Institute Jan. 23 tapped the elimination of Medicare Advantage private fee-for-service (PFFS) plans as an obvious way to save Medicare dollars, as one of the House Democrats' top Medicare lawmakers took notes. Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA), who chairs the Ways & Means health subcommittee, predicted that beneficiaries in rural areas would not complain if Democrats decided to do away with the program.

January 25, 2007 | Daily News

The Teamsters have begun lobbying Congress to pass new food worker safety measures in 2007. A Teamsters source said the union is concerned food processing industry practices are putting workers at risk for E. Coli exposure.

Constant pressure in the food processing industry to step up production leads to employees not following proper safety procedures, such as ensuring personal protective equipment that they removed during a bathroom break has been put back on before returning to work, the source said.

January 24, 2007 | Daily News

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) kicked off her 2008 presidential bid last Sunday (Jan. 21) by announcing she will sponsor legislation to expand the state children's health insurance program (SCHIP) to make every uninsured child in the country eligible for coverage. The move has reignited the debate over how to structure the SCHIP program in the process of reauthorizing it for fiscal year (FY) 2008 and beyond, but the Clinton proposal does nothing to address the nearly $1 billion shortfall facing a number of states beforehand.

January 24, 2007 | Daily News

Many of the organizations running "continuing medical education" programs fail to ensure that companies are not using the programs to promote their products, the Accreditation Council for Continued Medical Education told Senate Finance Committee leaders. CME programs are aimed at doctors and are supposed to be independent and balanced, but the committee is worried companies use the programs to promote their products off label.

January 23, 2007 | Daily News

Bipartisan legislation aimed at getting Congress to address the looming insolvency of the nation's entitlements -- including Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security -- was introduced in the Senate this week, but the bill, like similar GOP measures introduced in both chambers last week, merely puts pressure on lawmakers to enact changes without forcing them to do so.

January 23, 2007 | Daily News

Facing a Democratically controlled Congress for the first time in his White House tenure, President Bush in his State of the Union speech Tuesday told a well-behaved ocean of lawmakers that he wants to win a war in Iraq, tackle climate change, reduce gasoline consumption, and alter the tax code to make health insurance affordable for more Americans. But on the last point -- like the first -- the Democrats are already lining up in opposition.

January 22, 2007 | Daily News

HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt said the president will propose Tuesday (Jan. 23) a broad plan aimed at helping states begin to cover many of the nation's 47 million uninsured beginning in 2009 using a combination of federal and state funds, tax credits and premiums.

Performing what he calls a balancing act on the "three-legged chair of cost, quality and access," Leavitt said the plan -- dubbed the President's Affordable Choices Initiative -- would allow states the ability to design coverage plans and subsidize needy patients, with help from HHS.

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