Lack of ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Talk Indicates Issue Is Frozen Until After Election
The fact that House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and President Barack Obama have not discussed looming automatic spending cuts leads this roundup of Capitol Hill news.
Politico: Boehner And Obama Haven't Talked Fiscal Cliff
It's a striking admission from the nation's top elected Republican and clear evidence that the most urgent legislative concerns are frozen until after the election. A Boehner aide notes that the speaker did talk to Obama in September, but the topic was foreign policy, not the fiscal cliff. In fact, Boehner was asked on the call for an update on the sequester — Washington-speak for the automatic spending cuts to the Pentagon and other domestic spending (Sherman, 10/17).
Also in the headlines, a House panel is seeking information from the Food and Drug Administration about the agency's oversight and follow-up related to inspections at a New England compounding center -
Bloomberg: House Seeks FDA Reports On Pharmacy Tied To Meningitis
Lawmakers probing the U.S. meningitis outbreak are focusing on why the pharmacy linked to this year's infections didn't receive greater scrutiny when potential regulatory violations were found six years ago. The House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter yesterday to Margaret Hamburg, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, asking her about inspections at New England Compounding Center dating to 2004. The committee cited an FDA warning in 2006 of "potential microbial contamination" and asked the agency to document what follow-up occurred (Edney, 10/18).
The Philadelphia Inquirer: Meningitis Cases Spotlight Broken System
The deadly, multistate meningitis outbreak our country is currently dealing with brings much needed scrutiny to the compounding pharmacy business. The scale of the outbreak makes it the worst among a series of fatal or harmful infections and overdoses linked to compounding pharmacies in the U.S., rivaling other key drug safety issues in the more distant past that have led to substantial drug safety legislation (Cohen, 10/17).
Also from Capitol Hill, medical malpractice issues move back into the spotlight -
CQ HealthBeat: GOP Senators Renew Medical Malpractice Questions For HHS
Three GOP lawmakers are once again calling on the Health and Human Services Department to answer their concerns about grants designed to improve the medical liability system after finding the agency's first response insufficient. Republicans Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee; Lamar Smith of Texas, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee; and Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee, initially laid out their concerns with $23.2 million in funding for the administration's patient safety and medical liability initiative in an April letter (Attias, 10/17).
The Hill: Republicans Press HHS On Malpractice Reform
The Obama administration hasn't lived up to its rhetoric on medical malpractice reform, congressional Republicans charged Wednesday. Sens. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Orrin Hatch and Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) pressed the Health and Human Services Department on a grant program that was supposed to research various approaches to malpractice reform. But there's little to show for the money, the lawmakers said. Obama said in a 2009 speech to a joint session of Congress that he was open to limits on lawsuits against doctors — a long-standing GOP priority. And the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has awarded $23.2 million for studies on the issue. But real malpractice reform doesn't seem to be any closer, the Republicans said (Baker, 10/17).
And on health IT issues -
Politico Pro: GOP Senators Question Meaningful Use Program
Noting troubling headlines surrounding "meaningful use" recently, a handful of GOP senators are probing the program providing billions of dollars for electronic health record systems. Sens. Richard Burr (N.C.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), Pat Roberts (Kan.) and John Thune (S.D.) in a Wednesday evening letter to HHS point out that health care providers have already received $6.6 billion in EHR incentives, as recent news stories raise concerns that the subsidized record systems are boosting diagnostic tests, increasing Medicare billing and failing to communicate with other systems. The senators have asked for staffers from CMS and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology to sit down with Senate HELP and Finance committee aides by next Friday to discuss the meaningful use Stage 2 final rule (Millman, 10/17).