Friday, October 7, 2011

This Week in Health Care Reform: October 7, 2011

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This Week in Health Reform: October 7, 2011


The state of Virginia appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to challenge the Affordable Care Act.  Meanwhile, the U.S. House passed a short-term funding bill, but Republicans are seeking a 2012 budget which rescinds $8.6 billion in appropriations for the health care law.  And, the majority of Americans still support repeal.

We encourage you to stay educated about the implementation efforts around reform by voicing your perspective to Members of Congress and by visiting the Health Action Network.

Health Care Reform

Virginia Petitions U.S. Supreme Court:  Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli filed a petition last Friday to ask the Supreme Court to decide whether his state, too, can challenge the Affordable Care Act.  The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this month said Virginia does not have a right to challenge the federal law. 

Rep. Johnson Wants to Freeze ACA:  Meanwhile, Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas) introduced the “Freeze and Investigate Affordable Care Act” bill.  The bill would stop any further implementation of the health care law until its full impact is assessed.

2012 Budget Could Pull ACA Funding:  Late last week Republicans released their draft 2012 budget for labor, health, and education programs, challenging President Barack Obama’s health care law by rescinding $8.6 billion in related appropriations.  This week the House passed a short-term funding bill, and leaders from both parties hope to reach a longer-term agreement by November 18.

Gingrich Reveals New Contract With America:  During a town hall in Des Moines, Iowa, Republican Presidential candidate, Newt Gingrich, unveiled his new ‘Contract with America’ and slammed the Obama administration’s health law as “unconstitutional, unaffordable, unworkable and stunningly unfair,” promising to make its repeal his first act as president.

Industry News

SCOTUS Hears Case on Medicaid Reimbursements:  The U.S. Supreme Court opened its new term Monday by hearing opening arguments for Douglas v. Independent Living Center.  The Court will assess whether judges can stop California and other cash-strapped states from cutting their payments to doctors and hospitals who serve low-income patients.  The California dispute started in 2008 when the state legislature cut Medicaid reimbursement rates by up to 10 percent to try to solve the state’s budget crisis.  Medicaid patients and health care providers sued California, arguing this violated federal law requiring payments sufficient to assure access to, and quality of, care.

Baucus-Grassley Investigating Home Health Medicare ‘Gaming’:  On Monday, the Senate Finance Committee released a report alleging that three home health care companies manipulated the Medicare system by charging for unnecessary services.  Investigators cited memos showing these companies told employees to increase the number of therapy sessions a patient received in a 60-day period.  The report follows an increase in Medicare fraud investigations as the Obama administration tries to control growing health costs.

RWJF Report Says Medicare Should Take on Dual Eligibles:  A report released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation this week examines cost and quality issues associated with the 9 million individuals who receive health care benefits from both Medicare and Medicaid (referred to as dual eligibles).  Researchers at the Urban Institute believe Medicare, not Medicaid, should take full responsibility for the population of patients eligible for both programs.

California Could Mandate Maternity Care:  California Governor Jerry Brown is reviewing a bill which would mandate all insurance plans in the individual market to cover maternity care.  The legislation, SB 222, is part of a package of bills that would affect health care for pregnant women and close what advocates say are loopholes in the current law.  The governor's office has declined to discuss whether he will sign it.

Public Opinion

Majority of Americans in Favor of Repeal:  According to the recent Rasmussen Reports poll, 51 percent of Americans continue to favor repeal of the health care reform law, with 41 percent of those strongly favoring it.  Meanwhile, 57 percent of those polled say the law will drive up costs.

Looking Ahead

The Institute of Medicine’s recommendations for determining essential health benefits are expected to be released later today.

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