Mid-week Miscellany

  • The House leadership unveiled its State Children’s Health Insurance Program expansion proposal. This proposal plans to fund a $50 billion expansion of the Program over five years with a combination of a tobacco tax increase and payment cuts to Medicare Advantage plans. The proposal also would change the formula for reimbursing physicians under Medicare Part B. The current statutory formula requires a 9.8% reduction in those reimbursements beginning October 1, 2007. For the past few years, Congress has been overriding these cuts. The proposal would allow for a 0.5% increase in Medicare Part B reimbursements to doctors over the next two government fiscal years. According to the Wall Street Journal, “drug makers also would help pay the costs of the House bill, through a 5% increase in the rebates they pay the federal government under the Medicaid program for the poor.”
  • Sen. Ted Kennedy (D Mass.) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D. Vt) have introduced a bill that would strengthen federal privacy laws over personal health information. According to the Senators’ July 18 press release, the bill “would correct the longstanding errors in the ways in which confidential patient information is currently handled and distributed and would require the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to revise the HIPAA Privacy Rules. It would give each citizen the power to decide when, and to whom, their health information is disclosed.”
  • Of course, the Bush administration has been pushing for health care quality transparency. The Washington Post ran a front page article today on how health plan quality ratings allegedly can damage doctors’ reputations.