KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Republicans Seek End To Health Law Tax On Medical Devices

Also, two Republicans want states with failed health insurance exchanges to pay back the money the federal government gave them to start the marketplaces. Elsewhere, abortion rights groups push against a proposed ban on the procedure, and the parties debate over the prevalence of canceled health plans.

The Hill: GOP Seeks To Kill Obamacare Device Tax 
Senate GOP leaders on Tuesday called for a vote to kill Obamacare’s tax on medical devices, as part of a broader package to revive tax breaks that expired at the end of last year. But the tax package is popular with members of both parties, and it’s unclear if Republicans have the leverage to win a vote on the medical device tax. Republicans stopped short of saying they would oppose the tax package without the medical device vote (Becker, 5/13).

Politico Pro: Bill To Be Introduced To Require State Exchange Repayment
Two of the Senate’s top Republicans plan Wednesday to introduce a bill to require states with failing Obamacare exchanges to refund the money spent on those systems to the federal government. The measure by Sens. John Barrasso of Wyoming and Orrin Hatch of Utah would require states that initially operate their own exchanges but later chose to use the federal exchange to repay their establishment and early innovator grants over a 10-year period. The bill, called the State Exchange Accountability Act, is unlikely to make much progress in the Democrat-controlled Senate. But it directs even more attention to the states now struggling to repair failing exchanges or convert to the federal (Haberkorn, 5/14). 

The Hill: Abortion Rights Groups Go On Attack Against Graham Bill 
Abortion rights activists went on a full-court press Tuesday against a bill from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) that would ban abortions after 20 weeks, except in cases of rape, incest or when the mother's life is at stake. Graham, who is trying to shore up support from the conservative base as he runs for reelection, has scheduled a press conference for Tuesday with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to pressure Democrats into allowing a vote on the bill (Al-Faruque, 5/13).

CQ Healthbeat: Sale of Noncompliant Health Plans Prompts Debate Over Transitional Policy
The disclosure that the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association enrolled 3.2 million individuals in health plans as of April 1 that don’t comply with the health care law’s coverage requirements may give congressional Republicans more ammunition to pursue waivers and exemptions from the statute’s mandates. A Blue Cross-Blue Shield spokesman said the number, dropped at a House hearing last week, includes so-called grandfathered plans, which existed before the law was enacted and have not undergone substantial changes, as well as early renewals and plans that are offered under a transitional policy recently extended by the Obama administration. That policy, announced amidst a political firestorm over cancelled plans, allowed insurers to continue to offer some plans that would have otherwise been cancelled, as long as state regulators approve (Attias, 5/13).

And a House chairman asks the White House to step up oversight of medical care at the nation's VA hospitals --

The Hill: House VA Chairman Asks Obama To Create Medical Care Panel
House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) called on President Obama Tuesday to establish a bipartisan commission to investigate reported lapses in veterans' access to medical care. "For nearly a year, we have been pleading with top Department of Veterans Affairs leaders and the president to take immediate steps to stop the growing pattern of preventable veteran deaths and hold accountable any and all VA employees who have allowed patients to slip through the cracks," Miller wrote in a statement Tuesday. VA clinics in multiple states have faced allegations that appointment wait lists were manipulated to obscure long wait times, resulting in patient deaths (Wong, 5/13).

Meanwhile, the Obama administration pick to head the Department of Health and Human Services will face her second Senate confirmation hearing today -

The New York Times: Round 2 As Health Nominee Reappears Before Senators
Sylvia Mathews Burwell, President Obama’s nominee for secretary of health and human services, is scheduled to testify Wednesday at a confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee, where she is expected to face tougher questions but no more hostility than she encountered before a separate panel last week. The hearing is likely to focus on the Affordable Care Act, as Democrats try to show its strengths and Republicans try to put the focus on its weaknesses. The health law, passed in 2010 without any Republican votes, has emerged as an issue in many of this year’s midterm elections (Pear, 5/14).

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