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House To Move Forward To End Antitrust Exemption For Health Insurers

"House Democratic leaders are moving forward with Plan B for passing health care reform by introducing a stand-alone measure to strip the antitrust exemption for health insurance companies - a popular piece of their stalled health care reform package, " Roll Call reports. "Freshmen Reps. Tom Perriello (D-Va.) and Betsy Markey (D-Colo.) will file legislation on Friday aimed at barring the insurance industry from fixing prices and setting their own markets without being investigated. The bill ... is the first in what is expected to be a series of health-care-related measures that reflect the piecemeal approach House Democratic leaders are now taking to moving the overhaul" (Bendery, 2/3).

KHN Column: The President's Budget And Health Care Reform

In his latest Kaiser Health News column, James Capretta writes: "President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress continue to insist that the push for health care reform is far from over. But the release of the president's budget for fiscal year 2011 marks another turning point in the debate, one that means the climb toward passage of the bill - or any bill for that matter - has only gotten steeper" (1/4). Read entire column. This information was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with kind permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives and sign up for email delivery at kaiserhealthnews.

Republicans Should Allow Stalled Nominees To Move Forward, Obama Says

President Obama on Wednesday criticized Republican senators for using legislative tactics to delay confirmation votes on several nominees for reasons unrelated to their qualifications, the Washington Post reports. During a Senate Democratic Conference question-and-answer session, Obama said there is "a huge backlog of folks who are unanimously viewed as well qualified -- nobody has a specific objection to them -- but end up having a hold on them because of some completely unrelated piece of business." According to the Post, Senate rules allow members to place a hold on nominees at any time for any reason, effectively blocking the chamber's consideration of the nominee.

Drug Company CEOs Under Pressure

News outlets feature profiles and opinions of the CEOs of some of the largest American drug manufacturers. Dow Jones Newswires/The Wall Street Journal on Severin Schwan, chief executive of Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche Holding AG: "'It is difficult to gauge the impact of the planned U.S. healthcare reform on the pharmaceutical industry, ' Schwan told reporters at a media conference to detail 2009 earnings. 'On the one hand, more U.S. citizens will be getting access to healthcare, which is positive. At the same time, pressure on drug prices will certainly increase, ' he added." The wire service adds that he also said "decisions on generic biosimilars will be key" (Greil, 2/3).

Current Health Reform Efforts Echo Past Struggles As Chances Are Weighed

The chances for President Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress to enact health reform is being weighed by a number of analysts, who are handicapping the outcome based on past and present experiences. The Washington Post columnist Abigail Trafford writes that Obama's struggles mirror that of the Clinton administration's experience in the mid-1990s. "The Obama and Clinton initiatives had very different strategies. Hillary Clinton and her team of wonks labored in secrecy to design a perfect bill; early on, they dissed members of Congress. ... This time, the Obama administration did the reverse. The White House turned to Congress to design the bill. Meanwhile, the president courted the health-care industry and won over organizations that had opposed the Clinton plan.

States Cutting Back Special Programs For The Uninsured

Kaiser Health News staff writer Julie Appleby, in collaboration with USA Today, writes that some states are paring back health insurance programs for low-income people - even as demand grows. "Sherie Brace fears the coming of summer. That's when a special health insurance program for low-income adults in Washington state is set to close, ending coverage for her and about 65, 000 others" (Kaiser Health News). Read entire article. This information was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with kind permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives and sign up for email delivery at kaiserhealthnews.

State Round Up: Florida Considers Eliminating Popular Medicaid Plan; State Program For Low-Income Adults Changing In Minn.

Health News Florida : "This could be the year the state of Florida eliminates its popular MediPass program, which gives more than half a million Medicaid recipients, mostly aged and disabled Floridians, an alternative to HMOs. Hints of its demise showed up in the governor's budget and letters from a powerful lawmaker. The fight brewing in Tallahassee is over what service delivery system will take its place: commercial HMOs, hospital-run networks or a system that puts the primary care physician in charge. The Legislature is closely examining the MediPass program, which as of January had about 550, 000 enrollees statewide, in an effort to control spending in the Medicaid program.

House Dems' Next Step In Health Reform: Repeal Of Insurance Antitrust Exemption

Lawmakers "hoping to revive President Barack Obama's stalled health care overhaul have started writing a compromise bill, but it's unclear when the legislation will be ready for votes, a top House Democrat said Tuesday, " The Associated Press reports. "The measure would change the massive Senate-approved health bill to what bargainers from the White House, Senate and House agreed to last month, Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., said in a brief interview. ... The measure Rangel discussed would be a so-called reconciliation bill, a seldom-used procedure that only requires a simple majority of votes for Senate passage" (Fram, 2/2). In the meantime, "House Democratic leaders plan to bring to the floor next week a bill to repeal the exemption insurance companies have to antitrust laws, " says CongressDaily, adding: "That bill would kick off what Speaker Pelosi has said could be a series of smaller, free-standing pieces of health insurance-related legislation taken up as House and Senate Democratic leaders continue to work toward a solution to passing a comprehensive measure" (Edney and House, 2/3).

Democratic Leaders Increasingly Focused On Reconciliation Strategy To Advance Health Reform Legislation

Democratic congressional negotiators and White House senior officials met Tuesday but failed to reach a final agreement on how to move health reform legislation forward, CQ Today reports (Armstrong/Wayne [1], CQ Today, 2/2). Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said, "We had a discussion and we have a number of options, " but added, "We don't have anything finalized yet" (O'Connor/Budoff Brown, Politico, 2/3). He said, "We hope to be in a position in the near future -- don't put me down as to days or number of weeks -- to move forward on health care, " adding, "We plan to do it this year and to do it as quickly as we can" (Armstrong/Wayne [1], CQ Today, 2/2).

Today's Opinions And Editorials

Let's Work On Drug Costs And Premiums U.S. News & World Report Face it: Since most of the uninsured fall into the relatively healthy under-40 group, the current bills will force tens of millions of Americans to overpay for coverage, a juicy deal for insurers but not for anyone else (Bernadine Healy, 2/2). Time To Fix How Medicare Pays For Care St. Louis Post Dispatch/The Houston Chronicle Congress long ago discovered a great way to control Medicare spending - at least on paper. It sets spending targets. If they're not met, fees paid to doctors, hospitals and nursing homes automatically are cut. Or at least they're supposed to be (2/2). Congress Or No Congress, Change Is Ahead For Health Care Dallas Morning News In the 12 months ending in November 2009, medical care costs in the Dallas-Fort Worth area rose 12.

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