KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Hatch Seeks More Exchange Details From Administration

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R- Utah, charged that states can't make decisions about whether to pursue their own health insurance exchanges or to rely on the federal fallback version unless they have more information.

The Hill: Hatch Presses HHS For Details On Federal Exchange
The Obama administration hasn't given states enough information to decide whether they'll implement the central feature of the Affordable Care Act, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) charged in a highly critical request for more guidance. Hatch, the top Republican on the powerful Senate Finance Committee, said states can't make well-informed decisions about whether to establish their own insurance exchanges or let the federal government step in with a fallback. "The President promised 'an unmatched level of transparency, participation, and accountability across the entire Administration,' yet the details of his single policy achievement have been hidden from the public and the very people who will are [sic] required to implement the President's idea of health reform," Hatch said in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (Baker, 9/25).

Politico Pro: Hatch: States Need Exchange Details
The Senate Finance Committee's top Republican is questioning how HHS could ask states to decide whether to build health exchanges — or whether to leave that task to the feds — when they're missing key details about how the federal exchange would work. In a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius released Tuesday, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said he's concerned that HHS has asked states to indicate whether they’ll need federal assistance on an exchange by Nov. 16. That's a problem when the department hasn't issued key regulations, he wrote (Millman, 9/25).

Meanwhile, House Ways and Means Republicans released a report Tuesday highlighting how the health law has not met cost-savings expectations -

The Hill: GOP, Citing New Report, Says Health Law Has Not Controlled Costs
Republicans used new data on health care costs Tuesday to argue that President Obama's healthcare law hasn't lived up to expectations. "The verdict is in, and it is clear that President Obama has failed to deliver," Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee said, citing Obama's past pledges to slow the growth of healthcare costs. The renewed criticism was sparked by a report that found a spike in the cost of healthcare last year. The Health Care Cost Institute said per capita healthcare spending rose 4.6 percent in 2011, compared with 3.8 percent growth in 2010. The report says higher spending stemmed from higher underlying costs — not from more people using the healthcare system (Baker, 9/25).

In other news, warnings to Capitol Hill continue regarding the harms that will be done by sequestration - this time from the head of the National Cancer Institute -

CQ HealthBeat: National Cancer Institute Chief Concerned About Pancreatic Cancer Bill And Sequestration
The head of the National Cancer Institute said Tuesday that members of Congress would do well to concentrate on preventing sequestration from taking effect in January instead of passing legislation that would steer federal funding to a particular disease, such as the hard-to-treat pancreatic cancer. Harold Varmus, director of the National Institutes of Health's National Cancer Institute, raised serious concerns Tuesday about a House-passed bill aimed at steering federal funding toward such hard-to-treat cancers as pancreatic cancer (Adams, 9/25).

Modern Healthcare: Deficit Law Threatens New Cancer Research, Official Says
Looming cuts under the federal deficit-reduction law would endanger about 40% of the funding for new federal cancer research next year, according to a federal research official. Dr. Harold Varmus, director of the National Cancer Institute and co-chair of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, told reporters Tuesday that his informal estimate of potential cancer research cuts is based on likely sequester effects previously mentioned by Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health (Daly, 9/25).

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