KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

House-Senate ‘Endgame Talks’ Face Political Hurdles, Delays

The House GOP is moving slowly in naming negotiators to work through differences between the House- and Senate-passed budgets. The reason -- Republicans may want to avoid being on the record regarding politically-charged proposals related to Medicare and other issues. Also on Capitol Hill, new legislation was introduced regarding drugmaker rebates for "dual eligibles," and lawmakers scrutinize the Food and Drug Administration's oversight of drug compounders and raise concerns about electronic medical records.    

The Associated Press/Washington Post: After Demanding Budget Debate, GOP Resists Naming Negotiators For Endgame Talks
What may be really motivating House Republicans to delay is a wish to avoid a series of politically difficult votes that Democrats could force upon them soon after a conference committee is named. Democrats could force such votes on a daily basis for months if negotiations drag on, and the tallies on highly charged topics like Medicare could produce fodder for campaign commercials. "We don't want to ... have an endless process that focuses on our differences," Ryan said (4/16).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Democratic Lawmakers Seek To Restore Drugmaker Rebates For 'Dual Eligibles'
The legislation would require drug companies to provide rebates to the federal government for drugs used by a group of beneficiaries often called 'dual eligibles.' These beneficiaries are predominantly low-income seniors and people with disabilities who qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid (Carey, 4/16).

Politico: Lawmakers Blast FDA On Outbreak
House Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans blasted Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg on Tuesday for failing to crack down on the compounding pharmacy responsible for a deadly fungal meningitis outbreak last fall despite a history of known problems. The committee released a report at an oversight hearing Tuesday showing the agency chose to suspend its inspections of the New England Compounding Center and a sister company in 2011 while it worked to clarify its policy toward compounders (Norman, 4/17).

Medpage Today: GOP Report: FDA Failed To Act On Compounder
The FDA had all the authority it needed to take action against the compounding pharmacy at the center of last fall's fungal meningitis outbreak, the results of a Congressional investigation showed. However, the agency failed to act; 53 people died, and more than 700 were infected, Republican lawmakers said in a report issued Tuesday. … "In the 6 years following [a] 2006 Warning Letter, FDA failed to take any enforcement action against NECC or Ameridose despite receiving complaint after complaint, often relating to the safety of the companies' drugs," the report stated. "Though several inspections and related enforcement actions were considered during this time period, they were repeatedly delayed and ultimately cancelled” (Pittman, 4/16).

The Hill: GOP Senators Raise Concerns With Push For Electronic Medical Records
A 2009 law designed to promote electronic health records and make the healthcare system more efficient isn't living up to its goals, Republican senators said Tuesday. Six GOP senators, led by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) released a lengthy report Tuesday criticizing the execution of a $35 billion initiative to promote the use of electronic health records (Baker, 4/16).

Also in the headlines, the increasingly dark outlook for the federal government's long-term care panel and how the blanks are being filled in regarding this month's Medicare Advantage stock surge.

Medpage Today: Long-Term Care Panel Seen As Likely To Flop
Without financial support, the federal government's new unpaid and volunteer long-term care commission is likely to do little more than produce yet another report about the challenge of providing care for an aging nation, experts said. The federal Commission on Long-Term Care has been asked to evaluate long-term care in the U.S. and suggest solutions in a report due next fall. Just last month, President Obama appointed the final three of 15 panel members; three each were selected by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Commission members include a state Medicaid director, a nursing home executive, an advocate for persons with disabilities, and advocates for and against government involvement in long-term care financing (Struck, 4/16).

The Wall Street Journal: Stock Surge Linked To Lobbyist
A key source for a private report that sent health-care stocks on a tear earlier this month is a former top congressional aide who is now a health-industry lobbyist, according to emails reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Mark Hayes is currently an outside lobbyist for health-insurance giant Humana Inc. His email to Washington investment-research firm Height Securities, alerting it to a government decision that will save the industry billions of dollars, was a final piece of confirmation Height received before blasting a news alert to its clients, according to emails and people familiar with the matter (Mullins, Strasburg and McGinty, 4/17).

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