Health Law, Budget Plans Examined During Capitol Hill Hearings
Across the Hill, oversight hearings were held to review specific provisions of the new health law and related waivers. In addition, administration officials took questions about some specifics within the president's budget blueprint. And the House Judiciary Committee approved a medical malpractice reform bill.
The Hill: Congress Relitigates Health Care Reform At Oversight Hearing
The House Energy and Commerce Committee's first oversight hearing Wednesday on the health care reform law's implementation quickly turned into a battle over the law itself. Republicans grilled administration officials about the more than 900 annual waivers that have been granted to low-cost plans that would not be able to afford $750,000 worth of coverage in 2011 as required by the law. Democrats, meanwhile, said the administration was within its rights because the law grants the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) flexibility (Pecquet, 2/16).
The Hill: Sebelius Defends Doc Fix Strategy
President Obama's top health official on Wednesday defended the White House's decision not to include a long-term fix of the Medicare doctors' payment system in its budget proposal. The White House budget released Monday includes a two-year "doc fix" to the Sustainable Growth Rate formula, which determines Medicare reimbursements, but Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday pressed Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for details on a longer-term fix. The budget proposed pay-fors to cover the $54 billion fix over two years, but it doesn't propose how to cover $315 billion of needed fixes over the following eight years (Millman, 2/16).
CQ HealthBeat: Republicans Square Off Against HHS Officials On Agency Reorganization And Mini-Med Waivers
Republicans on Wednesday asked top Health and Human Services officials if they are favoring political allies in granting waivers from the health care law's requirements, skirting congressional oversight and restructuring the agency to head off efforts to prevent the measure's implementation. Their response: No (Adams, 2/16).
Politico: Ken Cuccinelli Spreads Love For Mass. Mandate
Hotshot Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has no trouble with the individual mandate to buy health insurance enacted by Mitt Romney in Massachusetts. The Virginia lawman said the Massachusetts law is perfectly legitimate because of the sovereignty of the commonwealth (Nocera, 2/16).
Modern Healthcare: Mixed Views On Reform-Lawsuit Outcomes
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a Republican, predicted the Supreme Court will eventually strike down the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's individual insurance mandate. His was one of several predictions at a House Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday on the law's constitutionality. "It will be close, but I believe they will," Cuccinelli said about the expected Supreme Court decision to bar the law's requirement that Americans purchase insurance or face either a penalty or a tax, depending on how it is described (Daly, 2/16).
The Washington Post: Gates Defends Health Care Fee Increase For Retirees
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on Wednesday defended his plan to increase by $5 a month the fee retired working-age military personnel pay for family health care coverage, after a member of Congress called it a "breach of trust" (Pincus, 2/16).
Meanwhile, a House panel approved medical malpractice reform legislation.
Politico: House Judiciary Approves Tort Reform
The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday approved a medical malpractice reform bill by an 18-15 party-line vote after turning aside several Democratic attempts to amend it, including one which mirrored the concerns of two Republican members of the panel (Coughlin, 2/16).