KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

House Republicans Assail Administration On Health Law Implementation

Members of the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on health assert administration officials have not been helpful to states.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Obama Administration Grilled About Insurance Markets In House Hearing
Top Obama administration officials were called before a House subcommittee Thursday to answer questions about the implementation of the president's landmark health law, and what Republicans say is a lack of clarity over how online insurance markets and a massive expansion of Medicaid will work (Galewitz, 12/13).

CQ HealthBeat: House Panel Continues Sniping Over Health Care Law
Continuing the partisan divide permeating debate on the health care law, House Republicans and Democrats painted two conflicting pictures of the state of the overhaul's implementation at a hearing Thursday. GOP lawmakers on the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health maintained that the Obama administration has not provided states with the information necessary to move forward, leaving them with uncertainty about how to proceed. But Democrats argued that the federal agencies have done their jobs and accused the other party of continuing to play politics with the law after it survived repeal votes, a Supreme Court ruling and the election (Attias, 12/13).

Meanwhile, in other Capitol Hill news --

The Hill: Rep. Graves: Essential-Benefits Policy Too Hard On Small Businesses
The "essential benefit" mandates in President Obama's healthcare law will drive up costs for small businesses, House Small Business Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-Mo.) said Thursday. Graves, in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, said the administration should revise the essential-benefits rule to better reflect the needs of small employers — including small insurance companies. "Although the Department claims that the health care law and its rules provide 'flexibility,' any flexibility is provided within expensive and mandatory categories of benefits, which will increase the cost of premiums for small businesses," Graves said in his letter Thursday (Baker, 12/13).

CQ HealthBeat: Medicaid Ruling On Rates Challenged By Republicans
Two top Republicans questioned the administration on reversing its support of a single federal blended rate for the Medicaid program, saying it results in a "bait and switch" for states. Orrin G. Hatch, ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, and Fred Upton, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said the decision could confuse states as they weigh expanding their Medicaid populations under the 2010 health care overhaul. "Many worry that the administration's policy shift simply represents a 'bait and switch' in order to get states to agree to PPACA expansions,” said Hatch, R-Utah, and Upton, R-Mich., in a Dec. 13 letter to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (Ethridge, 12/13).

CQ HealthBeat: Senate Finance Committee Members Question Director Of Duals Office
Sen. Jay Rockefeller on Thursday grilled the director of the office that the health care law created to oversee the care of those eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid about an initiative the administration is pursuing to shift recipients into managed or coordinated care plans. The West Virginia Democrat was a key backer of establishing such an office but has questioned the scope of its initiative, which would be undertaken in about half the country. Announced in July 2011, the effort would shift people who are dually eligible for the programs into either managed or coordinated care. The goal is to improve patient care and save federal and state funds. The governments spend more than $300 billion every year to care for the more than 9 million dually eligible patients (Adams, 12/13).

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